Present continuous

Learn about the present continuous and do the exercises to practise using it.

Level: beginner

The present continuous is made from the present tense of the verb be and the –ing form of a verb:

I am working
You are playing
He is talking
She is living
It is eating
We are staying
They are sleeping

We use the present continuous to talk about:

  • activities at the moment of speaking:

I'm just leaving work. I'll be home in an hour.
Please be quiet. The children are sleeping.

Present continuous 1

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Present continuous 2

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  • future plans or arrangements:

Mary is going to a new school next term.
What are you doing next week?

Present continuous 3

Plans for next month

2nd (Sat.) – my birthday. Party!
4th – day off
10th (Sun.) – flight OS462 15.40
11th, 12th, 13th – conference, Vienna
15th – dentist 3 p.m.
22nd – Mum & Dad arrive, evening
23rd – Toni's Restaurant (make reservation!)
25th – Mum & Dad > home
29th – payday

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Present continuous 4

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Present continuous questions

We make questions by putting am, is or are in front of the subject:

Are you listening?
Are they coming to your party?
When is she going home?
What am I doing here?

Present continuous questions 1

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Present continuous questions 2

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Present continuous negatives

We make negatives by putting not (or n't) after am, is or are:

I'm not doing that.
You aren't listening.
(or You're not listening.)
They aren't coming to the party. (or They're not coming to the party.)
She isn't going home until Monday. (or She's not going home until Monday.)

Present continuous negatives 1

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Present continuous negatives 2

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Stative verbs

We do not normally use the continuous with stative verbs. Stative verbs include:

  • verbs of thinking and feeling:
believe
dislike
know
like
love
hate
prefer
realise
recognise
remember
suppose
think
(= believe)
understand
want
wish

 
  • verbs of the senses:
appear
feel
look
seem
smell
sound
taste
 
  • others:
agree
be
belong
disagree
need
owe
own
possess

We normally use the simple instead:

I understand you. (NOT I am understanding you.)
This cake tastes wonderful. (NOT This cake is tasting wonderful.)

Level: intermediate

We also use the present continuous to talk about:

  • something which is happening before and after a specific time:

At eight o'clock we are usually having breakfast.
When I get home the children are doing their homework.

  • something which we think is temporary:

Michael is at university. He's studying history.
I'm working in London for the next two weeks.

  • something which is new and contrasts with a previous state:

These days most people are using email instead of writing letters.
What sort of clothes are teenagers wearing nowadays?
What sort of music are they listening to?

  • something which is changing, growing or developing:

The children are growing up quickly.
The climate is changing rapidly.
Your English is improving.

  • something which happens again and again:

It's always raining in London.
They are always arguing.
George is great. He's always laughing.

Note that we normally use always with this use.
 

Present continuous 5

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Level: advanced

We can use the present continuous to talk about the past when we are:

  • telling a story:

The other day I'm just walking down the street when suddenly this man comes up to me and asks me to lend him some money. Well, he's carrying a big stick and he looks a bit dangerous, so I'm wondering what to do …

  • summarising a book, film or play:

Harry Potter is a pupil at Hogwarts school. One day when he is playing Quidditch he sees a strange object in the sky. He wonders what is happening

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Hi PaoSande,

We don't have a page specifically for smell and other verbs of perception, but have a look at our Stative verbs page for a few more examples of verbs with different meanings for actions and states. I hope it helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Please write correct form of verb: I'm sorry, I ......(not understand) . Can you speak more slowly? progressive or present simple? Why?

Hello Khanal saroj,

The best form here is the present simple: 'I don't understand'. Although from one perspective it's true that you're not understanding something at the time of speaking, we almost always use a present simple form here.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Excuse me, how did I should write "did" in this phrase: What time "did or does" the film is starting?

Hello x100pre_noe,

It depends whether you are asking about the past or not.

To ask about a film which has not started yet you can use either of these:

What time does the film start?

What time is the film starting?

 

To ask about a film which has already started (or has already finished) you can say this:

What time did the film start?

 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear team, What (do you consider/are you considering) to be the lowest price they'll sell the house for? Do we use the present simple here or the present continuous? What is the difference,please? Thank you

Hello Maya.michael,

The correct form here is do you consider.

 

Consider has more than one use. It can be a dynamic verb with the meaning 'think about'. When it is used in this way, it can be used with the progressive aspect:

I'm considering selling the car. [=I'm thinking about it/trying to decide]

 

Consider can also be used as a stative verb meaning 'have an opinion'. When it is used in this way, it cannot be used with the progressive aspect:

I consider that to be a mistake. [=I think that is/was a mistake]

 

The verb think works in a similar way, with the same meanings (I'm thinking about vs I think).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I want to develop my English and grammar. Do you want us to communicate together to learn more from each other? I am a girl, but an occasion
I'm typing, I'm sleeping soon, and I'm falling asleep in an hour. ;) Are these sentences correct??

Hello Rafaela1,

The second two are a little odd.

If I understand what you mean, I'd suggest 'I'm going to sleep' or 'I'm going to bed' for the second form, and 'I'll be asleep in an hour' for the third one.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you plz tell me what these two sentences actually mean? At midnight, I am usually reading a book. At midnight, I usually read a book. Thanks a lot.

Hello DaniWeebKage,

The first sentence, with the continuous form (am reading), means that you are usually in the middle of reading at midnight. In other words, you start some time before midnight and are still reading when midnight comes.

The second sentence, with the simple form (read), means that you begin reading at midnight. In other words, midnight is your usual time for starting reading.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok, Sir, Let's focus on the meaning of these sentences. Not the timeline. I am reading a book when the lights go out. I was reading a book when the lights went out. Do these sentences have the same meaning? And what if a question in my exam like I (read) a book when the lights (go) out. Can I use both? Thanks a lot, Sir Peter

Hello again DaniWeebKage,

Both of your examples have a similar meaning:

I was reading a book when the lights went out

This describes an action (the lights going out) which interrupts another action in progress (reading a book) in the past.

I am reading a book when the lights go out.

This has the same meaning, but uses the present tense. Sometimes this is used in narrative fiction to create a sense of immediacy, or in anecdotes or jokes. It is a stylistic choice

 

Exam questions are designed to test your knowledge of standard forms, not forms used in very specific and limited contexts or genres. I would not suggest you use the present tense in an exam for that reason.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there, I have frequently heard the phrase 'I am working every afternoon' being used by native speakers. However, it seems not to be in keeping with the general rules. Is this an exception, or does it simply mean they want to stress the time adverbial 'every afternoon'?

Hi Fowler,

You're right that this is a common usage. The present continuous (I am working) can describe future arrangements – that is, future actions that are already confirmed and organised. This usage strongly implies that other people (e.g. coworkers or managers, in this case) are aware of the arrangements, and some kind of preparation was involved (e.g. drawing up a schedule). 

Although every afternoon can potentially include a past timeframe, with this usage of the present continuous it refers to a future timeframe: every afternoon from now on.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, The LearnEnglish Team, I have been studying Present Simple and Present Continuous lately, and I have learned that both of these tenses can be used to describe an action that happens repeatedly. This is quite confusing to me, because for instance, among the examples the team listed above, there are sentences like this: "It's always raining in Britain" and "George is great. He's always laughing". If I use Present Simple for these two examples ( It always rains in Britain", "He always laughs"), whether there are any differences in the meaning or is it correct? Or if I have wrongly understood the usage of these two tenses, could you please clarify for me. Thank the Team so much!

Hi Sophia,

It's a good question! These sentences are all grammatically correct, but there are slight differences in the meaning.

  • It always rains in London.
  • It's always raining in London.
  • He always laughs.
  • He's always laughing.

The present simple is used to express facts, so the present simple sentences sound like you are describing the repeated action factually or objectively.

 

The present continuous sentences don't have this factual meaning. Instead, they suggest more subjectivity in the description, giving more of a sense that this is how the speaker experiences or feels about the repeated action. The present continuous is often used with always, for example, to complain about things, e.g. He's always making noise when I'm trying to sleep. Saying He always makes noise ... (present simple) is also possible, but sounds more like a factual description and less like a complaint. 

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Yes, thank you so much for the answer and it does make sense. I have gained more understanding now. Hope you have a nice day!
Hello, The LearnEnglish Team, Jimmy was riding on a donkey with his father walking alongside. In the light of recent incidents, we are asking our customers to take particular care of their personal belongings. In each of these two sentences, why is the continuous tense used instead of the simple tense (in the 1st) and the present perfect (in the 2nd)? Appreciate your help.

Hello LilyLinSZ,

Remember that the choice of aspect (continuous or perfect) is often context dependent, so it can be hard to identify the reason with decontextualised examples.

 

In your first example, the two events happen simultaneously and provide a background for another (shorter) event. This could be something stated (when I arrive) or implied (when I looked at them / at that moment). I can't be sure without seeing the sentence in context.

 

In your second example, the sentence is aimed at customers. In other words, the sentence itself is the way in which the company (presumably) is asking its customers to take care. The continuous is used because it is an action in progress.

If the sentence were not aimed at customers, then the present perfect (...we have asked...) might be appropriate. For example, it could be director explaining company policy to his or her colleagues.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

At eight o'clock we are usually having breakfast. When I get home the children are doing their homework. I'm unable to understand the above sentences so can you elaborate this in east language what does it mean 2) and I have also a question while telling story to my son can I say like that "once upon a time I am walking alone on the road" Examples two.

Hello Aquibjamal,

We're happy to help you with this, but please explain to us more specifically what it is that you do or don't understand. 'get home', for example, means 'arrive home'.

It's not correct to use the present continuous in a story that begins with 'once upon a time'. In such a context, we always use some kind of narrative past tense such as the past simple, past continuous or past perfect.

It is possible to use present tenses to speak about past events -- it's just unusual after the phrase 'once upon a time'. We don't usually use this phrase to speak about our personal lives -- instead it's typically used at the beginning of traditional stories.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, May I know why is the present continuous tense is used in the following sentences? Computer City has announced that it is opening four new shops next month. (How about simple future or future continuous?) The changes that have been introduced are being seen as a step backwards. (How about are seen or have been seen?) the team concluded that third parties receive information about the device people are using, their locations, and possibly even when they are interacting with it. (How about 'the device people use'; 'even when they interact with it'?) Keeping taxpayers in the dark about how their money is being spent is not how government should operate. (How about '...money is spent...'?) Many thanks.

Hi LubNko525,

Interesting questions! Let me try to explain.

 

The first example (Computer City) uses present continuous (is opening four new shops) to show a planned future action. It's used when the action is already arranged, organised or scheduled. It gives a sense of this 'plannedness' of the action. Yes, future continuous is possible too: ... will be opening ... It also conveys this 'plannedness'. You could use will here too: ... will open four new shops. But the meaning's a bit different. This is a simple factual statement, and doesn't contain that 'plannedness' in its meaning.

 

In your other sentences, the using the present continuous gives a sense that the actions are ongoing. That is, they are not momentary actions or finished actions, but ones that are still continuing.

 

All the alternatives you suggested are grammatically correct, but they have slightly different meanings. They don't have the 'ongoing action' meaning. For example, in sentence 2:

  • If you use are seen, it presents the action ('be seen') as a general fact that is unlikely to change.
  • If you use have been seen, it presents the action as a completed one.

So, by using are being seen, the speaker presents the action as something going on now, which suggests that it that can end or change at some point.

 

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello admins, Sometimes I'm confused between future tense and present tense. For example, "For a while, I will work from home/ I work from home/ will be working from home". Which one is correct??

Hello Rafaela1,

There is no future tense in English. What you are using here is will, which is a modal verb like may or should. It often refers to the future, but can have other uses too.

 

In your example, will (a prediction or statement about the future) and will be working (an expectation) are possible. You could also use am working (a temporary state).

Work is not possible because it would describe a permananet or normal state, not something temporary.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher, 1. We now have a broader set of users who are utilising our product in various unexpected ways. - I would like to ask why the present continuous tense is used here. Would the simple present tense be equally acceptable? 2. The company has announced that it is cutting prices. - Why is the present continuous tense used here? I am confused about the use because I think the action of cutting prices is short. Could I say "it will cut prices" or "it has cut prices" instead?

Hello AsahiYo20,

1. The simple present is also correct here. I'm not familiar with the writer's reasons for using the present continuous, but I suppose it's to speak about something developing and changing.

2. Both of the alternatives you suggest are possible, though they all describe the action in different ways. I suppose the idea behind the present continuous is that it's something new (which you can also find on the page I previously linked to).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, The LearnEnglish Team, I´m confused about something, can you help me? We use Presente simple with adverbs of frequency like always, never, etc. At the same time we use presente continuous when something happens again and again, normally with the adverb always. So what is the difference between those two? The same goes for the advanced level, telling a story or summerising a book. What is the difference in use of this two tences? Thank you! Kind regars

Hello Alibel,

Generally, when we use the present continuous with an adverb of frequency such as always, forever or continually, it suggests that we find the habit irritating. For example:

He always parks the car behind the house. [a habit or typical behaviour]

He's always parking the car behind the house. [this habit irritates me]

 

However, we can also use the present continuous with an adverb of frequency when we want to emphasise or make clear that the action is in progress:

He always has a shower when I get up. [his shower starts when or after I get up]

He's always having a shower when I get up. [his shower is in progress when I get up]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, The LearnEnglish Team, If something happens regularly at a certain time (I leave the office at 6 p.m., We have breakfast at 7.30), Is it the only way to think and speak about it as ‘something is happening regularly at a certain time’, (I am leaving the office at 6 p.m. every workday., We are having breakfast at 7.30 every day)? Is present simple for regular actions totally impossible and unthinkable here? Thank you in advance!

Hello message100,

When something is a regular action then the present simple is appropriate. The continuous would suggest something that is not part of a regular pattern. For example:

I have my first meeting at 9.00 every morning, but this week I'm seeing my boss at 8.30 because she's got a lot of other meetings later on.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Also, in the "future plans or arrangements": Mary is going to a new school next term. since it is future plans, why aren't the sentence is "Mary will be going to a new school next term."(future continuous tense) or What are you doing next week? what will you be doing next week? (future continuous tense)

Hello cherly chia mei ying

The two sentences in the future continuous that you propose could also be correct. It depends on how the speaker sees the future event. We often use the future continuous when we are imagining a particular point in time or a situation in the future, but we can also refer to that same time with a form like 'be going to'. 

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir! I have two confusion here. Would like to seek for you opinions ^^ 1. The other day I'm just walking down the street when suddenly this man (came)comes up to me and (asked)asks me to lend him some money. Well, he's carrying a big stick and he looks a bit dangerous, so I'm(have been)wondering what to do … since it was saying about something in the past, why is the word i bracket is not past tense or the last one as present perfect continuous? 2. They are eating at Scott’s favorite restaurant today, Polly’s Pancake Diner. (some sentences i found online) - Why aren't "they are eating at.." is : "they have been eating at..." (as it sound like something already happened on today before this words spoken)

Hello cherly chia mei ying

Regarding your first question, as it says at the end of the explanation above, you can use present tenses to speak about the past, particularly when telling a story. This can have the effect of making the story more present.

Regarding your second question, you could also say that. The present continuous form would be better in, for example, a news report in which the reporter is on the scene at the time the report is made.

As you can see, verb tenses can be used in a variety of ways!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Good afternoon Sir, I want to ask He and she is plucking flowers or are pluking flowers which one is correct ? Next People is smoking or are smoking nowadays and another one Children are running fast or is running fast . kindly answer me I will be grateful . please sir

Hello Shilpa Dutta,

The correct spelling is plucking, but I think for flowers a better verb is picking.

Both people and children are plural nouns so you need to say are smoking and are running.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone. I would like to know the difference bettewen - Is she living in London? - Does she lives in London? And the stative verbs in present continuous Saying: "She is understanding everything" is correct? or we can just say "she is understand everything"

Hello Pats,

The correct sentences would be as follows:

Is she living in London?

Does she live in London? [not lives]

 

The difference is how the speaker sees the situation. The first sentence (present continuous) sees living as a temporary thing which will change. You might ask this if a person is studying in a city but will at some point leave, or is working on a short-term contract. The second sentence (present simple) sees living as a permanant thing. You might ask this if you think London is the person's home.

 

Stative verbs are usually not used with continuous forms. The correct form here is understands.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello "She is over-sensitive, often getting offended for seemingly no reason." I read this sentence in a book and now I wanna understand "geting" is present continuous here or not? if yes or no, please tell me the reason. thanks a lot for your response

Hello atya,

Getting here is a present participle. We can use these to join sentences which have the same subject:

She is over-sensitive.

She often gets offended for seemingly no reason.

> She is over-sensitive, often getting offended for seemingly no reason.

 

You can read more about this use of participles on this page:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/participle-clauses

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

The other day I'm just walking up the tropical forest when slowly this sloth comes up to me and asks me to give some fruits. Well, he's having big claws and he looks a bit like a mascot, so I'm wondering what to do …
" Hot water makes me to feel tired " is it correct or wrong ? Let me know, you explain all the grammer about this sentence,please.

Hello Ridg Wick

I'm afraid that is not correct. When we use 'make' in this way, it is followed by an infinitive without 'to': 'Hot water makes me feel tired'.

You can read more about how to use 'make' this way on our Verbs followed by the infinitive page (see the section called make and let).

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir, Would you please help me. I'm confused with stative verbs. Are we not allowed to use stative verbs with 'ing' form, like in an example 'we are loving this moment'? Or can we still use it for spoken words? Thank you,Sir

Hello Risa warysha

Most of the time, we don't use stative verbs in a continuous form, but it is possible to do this. It usually depends on the specific context and meaning. For example, when we use a continuous form to talk about a temporary situation, it's OK to do this with a stative verb: 'I'm being stubborn because I really don't want to go'.

There's a fuller explanation in the State and action verbs section of this page ('state verb' is another way of saying 'stative verb'). Please have a look and then if you have any questions about a specific sentence or two, please feel free to ask us.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team