Present continuous

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


Present continuous 2


  • 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


Present continuous 4


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


Present continuous questions 2


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


Present continuous negatives 2


Stative verbs

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

  • verbs of thinking and feeling:
(= believe)

  • verbs of the senses:
  • others:

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


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

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.

Hello Samah10,

You are correct that the present simple can be used for habitual actions.  Generally, we use the present simple when the action is normal - it happens all the time and is standard.  For example:

He gets up at 6.00.

They eat lunch together.

He works at the bank.

All of these suggest that this behaviour is understood as normal, typical and not particularly noteworthy.

We use the present continuous, especially with 'always' or 'forever' when something is not so much normal but rather a frequent event or activity.  For example:

He's always getting up at that time. [it's something that happens frequently, but not necessarily all the time]

They're forever eating lunch together. [it happens more often than would be expected, and is therefore something noteworthy - i.e. it is seen as not normal or expected]

He's always working late. [again, the fact he works late is seen as worthy of comment, therefore something not part of the normal way of things]

It is a small difference in some ways but I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

thanks, that's much clear with the examples. If you may, I have another question . both present tense and continuous used for something that fixed or arranged in the future. so again, what's the difference ?

Hello Samah10,

When the explanation says "something fixed in the future", it is referring to events that occur regularly on a timetable, e.g. train or flight departures, film showing times in a cinema, classes at a school, etc. For these, the present simple is used.

The present continuous is often used for something planned or arranged. These are generally not regular events. For example, if you and I agreed to meet in a café tomorrow at 8am, I could say "Samah10 and I are meeting tomorrow at 8". If that was something we did every day, I'd use the present simple (for a habitual or regular event).

Note that the difference is sometimes a matter of perspective. If I am to catch a flight tomorrow at 10:30 and someone asked me about it, I could say both:

The flight leaves at 10:30.
I'm leaving tomorrow at 10.30.

In the first sentence, I'm talking more about the flight than my plan, and in the second I'm talking more about my planned trip.

I hope this helps!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, what is the difference between following words if i add word 'always ': He always gets up at 6:00 A.M. He is always getting up at 6:00 A.M. Thanking you in an advance!

Soumis par Kirk le dim 08/02/2015 - 19:51

En réponse à par rishi1234567


Hello rishi,

'always' is often used with the present continuous to indicate actions that we think are done too often. In this case, the sentence doesn't just report this man's routine - it also includes the idea that the speaker or writer disapproves of the action in some way. It could be that 6:00 is too early or too late, for example.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Stivencin le mar 08/04/2014 - 21:44

Hi, I am American and am helping a friend with his English, although he's learning the British variety. He often writes sentences such as "Today I have been to the store and then I have been to the gym". Because he specifies the order in which the events have taken place, this sounds wrong to me, although he's talking about things he has done today. Can you shed any light on the subject? Thanks much.

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 09/04/2014 - 08:10

En réponse à par Stivencin


Hi Stivencin,

In general, we use the present perfect for events which do not have a concrete time reference and are relevant at the moment of speaking, but use past tenses for events which are finished and sequential.  

You could see the actions in your sentence as fitting into either of these categories - 'today' is unfinished time, which suits the present perfect, and the events are 'news' to the listener, to which again the present perfect lends itself; you could also argue that the events have present consequences (I don't need to go shopping and I feel good/fit/healthy).  On the other hand, you could see the actions are being completed and sequential, without any direct relevance to the moment of speaking.  In other words both of these variations are possible:

Today I have been to the store and then I have been to the gym.

Today I went to the store and then I went to the gym.

The choice depends upon how the speaker views the actions; there is no right or wrong alternative and I have certainly heard people using both.  I know, though, that in American English the past tense is preferred in sentences such as this.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par nlvunguyen le jeu 23/01/2014 - 15:19


"At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast."

Can you please explain more why we use simple continuous here instead of simple present (as a routine)?

Also, both simple present and present continuous are used for "something happening again and again". Could you please give me more information and example? I'd really appreciate it! :)

Hi nlvunguyen,

As is explained above, the sentence "At 8 we are usually having breakfast" is used to speak about what is happening around a given time - it is not really talking about a routine. The difference is subtle, and has to do with the context the sentence is used in. For example, if you are speaking about the series of activities you do every morning, then you would use the present simple. On the other hand, if someone tells you that you she wants to visit you at home at 8am tomorrow, the present continuous version of the sentence would be more appropriate. This is because you're not really discussing your routine in general - rather, you are discussing a specific time of day.

As for your question about the present simple and continuous to to talk about something that happens again and again, note that, as is explained, the present continuous is used with always. This use of the present continuous often indicates some kind of emotion on the speaker's part. For this reason, it is often used to express our annoyance or dissatisfaction with something (e.g. the first example about raining), but can be used in other ways too (e.g. the other sentences).

These are subtle points and can be difficult to master - I hope this helps you.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par krishna0891 le ven 17/01/2014 - 16:46



I have come to know that some verbs like love, hate will always take 1st form (what I mean is, we don't use *ing forms of those verbs in general).

please explain them and mention the remaining verbs of such kind.

Thanks and Regards


Soumis par Kirk le dim 19/01/2014 - 11:11

En réponse à par krishna0891


Hello krishna0891,

Many of these verbs refer to mental or emotional states (e.g. believe, feel, hate, remember, want) and the senses (e.g. hear, see, taste), but there are others that don't fall into an easy-to-remember group (e.g. be, depend, fit, promise, weigh). Note that some of these verbs are used in the present continuous in certain contexts, but in general they are not used in continuous forms.

There are quite a few of these verbs. I would suggest that you learn them as you encounter them, but if you want a list, I'm sure you can find one by doing an internet search for "non-continuous verbs".

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par leejineui le lun 02/12/2013 - 14:14


Present continuous : talk about the future

I thought I could use present continuous when i wanted to imply some future meanings in the sentence 

e.g I am meeting some friends after work ( future) 

so I have used this grammar in my email 

e.g) we confirmed that the following figure are appearing soon in the report

but one of my native friends said " It is wrong " and explain like below

numbers/figures on the report will change in the near future implying that either a new report will be printed shortly or the report itself has the ability to change figures by itself. 

he said I should have used "will appear" instead of "are appearing".  he told me that " Are appearing" means that the figure has the ability to change by it self.

but I cannot understand it since the future concept is also included in the present continuous. so I thought "are appearing" was able to use this sentence. 


Could you tell me when present continuous future concept can be applied to the sentence? and please explain for me why i cannot use "are appearing" in this sentence 



Hi leejineui,

You are absolutely right when you say that the present continuous can be used to talk about the future. More specifically, it is used to speak about future plans or arrangements. There is more on this on our talking about the future page, but also please know that speaking about the future takes a lot of practice.

I't sounds like "will appear" is the correct form in the sentence you mention. This is because as far as I can tell without knowing the full context, you don't plan for the figures to appear in the report - you already know this and so are simply giving information about the future, i.e. that the figures will appear in the report. Therefore, the correct form is will.

I don't agree with your friend when they speak about the figures changing by themselves. Perhaps I haven't understood the context well enough, but that doesn't sound right to me.

I hope this helps you.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Amal.mahmoud le sam 23/11/2013 - 22:39


If u plz tell me questions and negatives in present continuous


Hello Amal.mahmoud,

To form the negative we add 'not' after the auxiiliary (am, are or is):

I'm watching a film    >    I'm not watching a film

He's sleeping    >    He's not sleeping

To form questions we invert the order of the subject and the auxiliary:

I'm watching a film    >    Am I watching a film?

He's sleeping    >    Is he sleeping?

You can find more information on question forms here.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par granttod le mar 19/11/2013 - 14:30

Hi, I did this exercise from the question was "Anyone ... after the start of the play is not allowed in until the interval." I got the correct answer "arriving", but somehow I did't know how to explain why this is the answer to the question. Could you please show me which part of the English Grammar should I learn, thanks.

Hi granttod,

Anyone arriving is a participle clause, which is explained on our Participle clauses page (look in the With the Present Participle section). Essentially, anyone arriving acts like the relative clause anyone who arrives would act if the sentence were written that way.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par TB01 le mer 11/09/2013 - 09:54


Would it be correct to say 'John is arriving late. He is stuck in traffic'.

If it is, do people usually say this type of sentence (a fact) using the present continuous or use 'will' or 'going to' instead? Thanks!

Soumis par BigN le lun 02/09/2013 - 09:43


Can you tell me about state verb?

What 's about the verb "try"? Is it the state verb?

When do we use " I try" or " I'm trying"?

Thank The LearnEnglish Team a lot!

Hello BigN,

You can find out about stative verbs here:

As far as 'try' goes, it is not a stative verb and so can be used in a continuous form ('I'm trying...').  However, that does not mean that it cannot be used in a simple form ('I try...').  

Both forms are possible and are used in accordance with normal usage.  Thus we use 'I try...' for general/permanent actions:

'I (always) try to be nice to people.'

We use 'I'm trying...' for temporary actions or action in progress at the time of speaking:

'I'm trying to fix the car, but it's not easy.'


You can find out more about continuous forms here.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Abdorawa le lun 12/08/2013 - 20:57

We use present continuous tense for something which is happening before and after a given time I thought that would the same meaning to (something happens again and again) and if that is the case this would be in simple present form e.g 'At eight o'clock we are usually having a breakfast'.

Soumis par Abdorawa le lun 12/08/2013 - 20:30

Why is it? 'I'm just leaving work rather than I shall have leave work.what is the difference? I'm in comfussion about it.

Hello Abdorawa,

'I'm just leaving work' means the speaker is in the process of leaving - he or she might just be walking through the door, for example.  'I shall have left' would mean the speaker is still at work, but knows that he or she will leave before a certain time in the future (' five o'clock', for example).

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Kind le ven 21/06/2013 - 08:34


Please may I know why my question was not answered? Anything wrong?


Nothing is wrong - we just don't have time to answer all the questions on LearnEnglish. We're a small team and there are millions of people using this site.

We'll try to get round to your question as soon as we can, but if you need a quick answer, you may have to pay a teacher to help you.

Best wishes,


Soumis par Kind le mer 29/05/2013 - 09:53



Please can you explain why it is said:

"When I get home the children are doing their homework" rather than "When I got home the children are doing their homework.

Is it because this is this is something happening again and again?

Many Thanks

Hello Kind,

The first sentence, as you suggest, describes a typical situation for the speaker when he or she arrives home.

The second sentence needs a small correction.  It should be:

'When I got home the children were doing their homework.'

This sentence would describe a specific situation in the past.

I hope that answers your question.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

'When I get home.the children are doing there homework' why not a simple present form since it describes the typical situation for the speaker?

Hello Abdorawa,

The present continuous form is used to describe situations which are in progress at the time of speaking or at the time of another event.  In your sentence above, the speaker is saying that the children are in the middle of doing their homework when he or she gets home each day.  If the speaker used a present simple form, it would suggest the children start their homework when he or she arrives home - a different meaning.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Nour3 le dim 28/04/2013 - 20:00



If you please, I need some help according to what's mentioned before that we use both the present simple and the continuous present to talk about sth is happening again and again, could please show me the difference clearly?

Also, we use both of them to talk about future so when can I use each?

Thanks in advance,


Hello again Nour3!


This is your third question about grammar! In my experience, learners often get confused when they concentrate only on grammar, and don't look at how we actually use English. Can I suggest you spend some time reading and listening to the materials on our site? That way, you will see lots of examples of the different tenses you ask about, and may be able to understand the differences and similarities better that way.


One useful tip is to use our search box - put, for example, present continuous into the search box, and explore some of the materials and exercises we have which deal with these topics. 


In answer to your questions, we use always with present continuous to emphasise that something happens a lot, as in It's always raining in London. Simple present is more neutral. As for using both present continuous and present simple to talk about the future, our page on talking about the future explains the difference clearly.


Hope that helps!


Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team


Thank you Jeremy bee for your advice I do appreciate that, and please excuse my questions it's just my eager to learn more as I teach English and looking to have a career step forward which makes me keen on being more professional and up to date as possible as I can that's why I am focusing a bit on grammar as it has more details and tricks and definitely will help to be more accurate teaching English Language specifically  the grammatical aspects.


Hello Nour3!


Oh, I see! I can understand you wanting to know a bit more about the grammatical detail - but remember that our site (and grammar explanations) are aimed at learners. We are expanding the grammar section soon, but if you want to dig more deeply, you may find detailed grammar references helpful. There are several on the market, although I like Practical English Usage (Swan). As a general teaching tip, though, while you may want to understand grammar in detail, as I say, it can be confusing to overload learners with grammar!


Don't forget our sister site, TeachEnglish, has a lot of resources for teachers, including teacher development.




Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Dashcaramel le ven 19/04/2013 - 18:07

How can we use present continuous instead of past continuous? I've never experienced it. How about "when we were telling a story" instead ?

Soumis par Zaarlev le dim 27/01/2013 - 23:11


Hello Everyone,

I want to know whether this sentence " We're thinking of going to Croatia for two or three days next month", is "for something which we think is temporary".

Thanks for your help. 

Hello Zaarlev!


Here, 'We are thinking...' is for something you are doing right now, not something which is temporary. For example, people in a relationship might say 'We are thinking of getting married' - and no-one gets married thinking it will be temporary!




Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team




Hello Jeremy Bee!

Here, it doesn´t concern about they will divorce or not. The "We are thinking..." is about whether they will get married or not, they are considering the pros and cons about getting married, when they make a decision, they stop of "thinking" and do what it's better for them. It's the same case for my example.

So I think, the case of personal pronoun + be + thinking, is always temporary.



Hello Zaarlev!


Yes, that's right, and that's what I thought you were asking about! Glad you've got it clear - we don't usually think about something forever!




Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hyphen le sam 18/08/2012 - 13:50



Is it correct to say: "He is talking in the middle of the show" ?

thank you