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)

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Hello seelan65,

It is possible to use can or could with the present infinitive:

Could the floods be prevented in the first place?

Can the floods be prevented in the first place?

'Could' suggests that the speaker sees preventation as less likely than 'can', so the difference in meaning is one of perspective.


However, the other sentence is a question about the past and here only 'could' is possible:

Could the floods have been prevented in the first place?

Can the floods have been prevented in the first place?



The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Billdo1989 le dim 22/06/2014 - 11:16

Good afternoon Sir/Madam. Could you please give me more explanation for the exercise above? Between "He was picking grapes in France last summer" and "He's driving me mad" which one will be right with continuous aspect: something happening before and after a given time, I think the first one does because it has "last summer". Regards Bill

Hello Bill,

You can see for yourself the explanations by clicking the 'Finish' button.

'He was picking grapes in France last summer.' - this is a temporary action; he is not picking them now, and did it for only a certain time.


'He's driving me mad.' - this is something happening before and after a given time; the driving mad has been going on before the moment of speaking and will continue after it.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team


Soumis par raj.kumar123 le lun 12/01/2015 - 10:31

En réponse à par Peter M.

Sometimes, I find it difficult to recognize non-continuous verbs. Could you please let me know if there is any easy way to recognize them. Non-Continuous verbs are also used as continuous verbs in special sense. Is there any criteria for it?

Hello raj.kumar123,

I'd recommend identifying the verb first. If part of the verb ends in -ing and is preceded by a form of the verb 'be', then it's continuous - otherwise, it's not.

Can you give me an example of a non-continuous verb used as a continuous verb? I'm not sure what you mean.

I hope this helps!

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par zagrus le mer 20/11/2013 - 18:38



 Can I say " my back is hurting me"? if no, why?


Thanks in advance

Soumis par Peter M. le ven 22/11/2013 - 10:02

En réponse à par zagrus


Hello zagrus,

Yes, you can say that.  In fact, I said it to my wife yesterday afternoon after carrying some heavy things down to the cellar!  The present continuous form is used to show it is something true at the moment, of course, and we can substitute other parts of the body (my leg is hurting me / my finger is hurting me etc).

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Danielle N le dim 27/10/2013 - 16:35

Hello! Is this sentence correct? "The man is having his eyes closed." Thanks!

Soumis par Steve Marry le dim 06/10/2013 - 16:11

I think when we are reading a lesson, what we are thinking is something that has passed. so it's hard to hook to the lesson unless we use the lesson when the happening is happening. am i wrong?

Soumis par Elmelik le mer 19/06/2013 - 16:33


please i need your help i  dont know how to write a good paragraph ,so i need your help as soon as possible


Hello Elmelik,

That's quite a general question, so it's hard for me to give you a specific answer.

Do you have problems with putting short sentences together to make longer sentences?  If so, this may be useful for you.

Paragraphs are not all the same, of course, so what makes a good paragraph depends on the kind of text you're writing - different kinds of letters and emails, essays, reports, advertisements and so on.  If you can tell us what you're trying to write then we might be able to give you some more specific advice.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par paula 12 le mer 19/06/2013 - 11:57


hello,I'm trying again...:))please,could anybody tell me the difference between 'seriousness 'and 'earnestness'??what means 'seriousness is acceptable but earnestness is strictly forbidden...?

Hello Paula,

You asked the same question on another page and we answered it there. Please can you ask each question once only? It saves us time so we can help more users!

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Mydearfriend73 le mer 19/06/2013 - 00:50

Hi everyone, I'm new to this site. Like the site very much, it's a very good platform for learning English and interactive with all the people around the world with different background. Hope I will enjoy learning here and do much as I can to contribute to the site. One again Thanks for the BC and his team, for their hard work, patient and spiritual in running the site. Well done!

Hello Mydearfriend!


Thanks for your kind words - it's great to hear you find the website so useful! Good luck learning English, and enjoy your time on the site.




Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Miss Lily le mer 24/10/2012 - 03:56


Could anyone to explain me the difference  between "make  money" and  "earn  money" ?  


Hello dear, i suppose this reply is too late and you might have gotten  the answer already , but never mind i'm a new member also English learner. so i will explain them to you if they're  wrong you can correct me if they're  right then say they're right .well here we go,

make money is first you have to find methods  to bring money either by working or starting your own business.for instance, to buy my own car first i have to make enough money or I'd like to make some money so i can start my own business

as for earn money,to earn money from either your own business or by working with an employer. for instance, i earn 200 pounds every week.

I earn too much money from my own  new business.let me give you  an example in the past, i have earned 500 pounds only this week..thanks

I would like to know if the Duration form in a negative sentence must be always done with the present perfect simple or can be also done with the present perfect continuous. Thank-you Anna

Hello anna maria,

Could you please give an example of what you mean? I just want to give you an accurate answer. Thanks!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Lily Glee le sam 13/10/2012 - 14:09


I don't know if the question I asked will be read by anyone here, so I'd prefer to cancel it and ask my question elsewhere. Thank you.

Soumis par Cristina91 le sam 21/04/2012 - 18:50




Can someone explain me at the example "he's driving me mad" the right answer is "something happening before and after a given time"? Because i can't see where is that "given time" in this sentence. 


Thanks in advance! :)

Soumis par hossam alshareef le lun 12/03/2012 - 19:16


really very useful information and very interesting exercises. Really I like this site and i am so proud to be a member of your site. Thanks.