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Continuous aspect

Level: intermediate

We use continuous aspect:

  • for something happening before and after a specific time:

He's getting on the train. (before and after the moment of speaking)
It was a quarter past ten. We were watching the news on television.

  • for something happening before and after another action:

Mother will be cooking the dinner when we get home.
We were waiting for the bus when it started to rain.

  • for something continuing for some time:

Everybody will be waiting for us.
They had been working hard all day.

  • for something happening again and again:

They've been doing that every day this week.
The children were always shouting.
He will be practising the piano every night.

  • for something temporary:

We are renting an apartment until our house is ready.
He was working in a garage during the vacation.

  • for something new:

We have moved from Birmingham. We're living in Manchester now.
He had left university and was working in his father's business.

  • to describe something changing or developing:

Everything has been getting more difficult.
He was growing more bad-tempered every day. 

Continuous aspect 1


Continuous aspect 2


We can use continuous aspect:

How long have you been sitting there?
I don't know how long she had been learning Spanish.

Your friends will be looking for you.
They might be playing tennis.

You should have been driving more carefully.
Soon we will have been living here for 25 years.

Continuous aspect 3


Continuous aspect 4


We do not normally use the continuous aspect with stative verbs. We use the simple instead:

I don't understand you. (NOT am not understanding)
When I got home, I really needed a shower. (NOT was needing)
I've always liked John. (NOT been liking)


Hello Ulianan,

Both sentences are grammatically possible and so which is correct will depend upon the particular context in which it is used.

The first sentence (will sit) is a prediction about the future from the point of view of the present. The second (will have been sitting) is a description of the situation looking back from a point in the future; it carries the sense of by that time...

You can read more about the second example on this page.



The LearnEnglish Team

I've got one question. Can we use both aspects of the verb 'stand' in this phrase?

He stood/was standing outside the door for a moment, trying to understand what he had seen.

Thank you.

Hi Marua,

For most cases, the past simple form is the best one to use here. The continuous one could be possible in some specific situation, e.g. as the answer to a question regarding why he was there, but in general the simple form is more likely.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


As an example of "something continuing before and after another action", you gave the following sentence: Mother will be cooking the dinner when we get home. Can you explain please which action took place *before* in this example?

Hello Or Yahalom,

In this example Mother will be in the middle of cooking when we get home (remember, 'get' here means the same as 'arrive'). The sequence is this:

1. Mother starts cooking

2. We get home

3. Mother finishes cooking (and we are already at home when this happens).


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Are these sentences correct?
1. I have been working all day.
2. I have been working today.
3. I have worked today.
I could use some help.

Hello Marua,

All of those sentences are grammatically correct. Which is appropriate will depend upon the context.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi again and thank you very much for the answer.

Regarding present perfect continuous, in the next dialogue, can I use 'today' and 'all day' with no difference in meaning?

'I'm exhausted.
Have you been working hard today/all day?'

Both of them are appropriate?


Hi Marua,

You can use both 'all day' and 'today' but there is a difference in meaning. 'Today' is more general and does not tell us how long the activity took. 'All day' tells us that it was an activity which lasted the whole day.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear teachers,
Is that following sentence is correct;
I am Kim Kiyani living in two blocks away from the club .
I think the original sentence should be like this ; I am Kim Kiyani ,and I am living in two blocks away from the club .
If the first sentence is correct , what is the rule behind that ? it is possible to use the same structure for a sentence like this ;
I have arrived recently, (I have )found the apartment keys beneath the flower pot