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

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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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Hello Vishal Panchal,

We frequently use the present continuous to speak about planned future actions. Please see our talking about the future and Future Plans pages for more information on this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ram ous on Sun, 16/07/2017 - 11:55

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Hello I don't understand the difference between 'going to' and 'present continuous ' ,can you bring more examples?

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 17/07/2017 - 06:54

In reply to by Ram ous

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Hello Ran ous,

You can find more examples and explanations on our page titled Talking about the future. You can find it here. Please take a look at those examples and let us know if you are still unsure.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

So the first one is related to "intentions" and the second one with "plans or arrangements", if yes then it's quite confusing to understand difference between plans and intentions, I'll be grateful if you clarify it .

Hello Ram ous,

The difference is really a question of how we see the action, not a clear-cut factual difference. If we see the action as being already set and certain then we tend to use the present continuous; if we think the action might change or not happen then going to is more likely. Plans are less fixed than arrangements. Plans may exist only in our head for the moment; arrangements tend to have gone further.

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Momocompanyman on Sun, 09/07/2017 - 17:07

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Hello Sir Kirk, this sentence it's very hard to understand as compared to me : and he's wondering what to do next when a man… Best Wishes.

Hello medmomo,

This sounds like it's from a story or a joke. It's difficult to explain without more context, but essentially it's describing a person who is thinking about what to do. While he is thinking, a man comes and does something. Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rosanna B on Tue, 20/06/2017 - 13:06

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Hello I undestand the difference between 'going to' and 'present continuous ' for the future is that 'present continuous' should be used for fixed plans. However, when you pay attention to conversations in movies, it seems (to me) that this is not always the case. I have the impression 'present continuous' is becoming even more usual than 'going to'. I'd appreciate some clarification or opinions about it.

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 20/06/2017 - 13:40

In reply to by Rosanna B

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Hello Rosanna-br,

That's very observant of you! In many situations, the line between an intention and a fixed plan isn't very important to speakers, so they may use these two forms interchangeably. Another thing to consider is that what exactly a fixed plan is may be different from one person to the next. In other words, I might consider a flight booked only once I've got a ticket in my hand, whereas for my brother just having the flight date in his mind might be enough for him to consider the plan as fixed.

In the end, the grammar rules that are presented here and in most other grammars are attempts to describe how native speakers use the language. And of course how people use the language varies quite a bit and changes over time. Perhaps you've caught on to a change that will become more and more common with time.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kankool on Tue, 13/06/2017 - 00:31

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Hello! Which should I say between 2 these sentence? "I don't have any jobs at the moment" "I am not having any jobs at the moment" In this case. Is the word "have" either state verb or action verb?

Hello Kankool,

'have' can be used in the continuous, but in this case, where it indicates possession, it's not correct. In other words, the first sentence is the correct one. Our stative verbs page doesn't mention 'have', but it might be a good resource for you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Roseinink on Sat, 10/06/2017 - 13:39

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Can I have more examples of when present continuous is used to talk about the past as when we are telling a story? I don't get this part, and there aren't enough examples in the lesson

Hello Roseinink,

We can use present tenses whenever we are telling a story and we want to make it more immediate. However, this is generally only done in certain types of storytelling such as jokes, informal anecdotes and so on.

A joke might start like this:

A man walked into a bar and asked the barman for a glass of water. The barman asked why he wanted water and the man said...

If we were telling the joke to friends we might want to make it more of a performance and say:

So this guy walks into a bar and asks the barman for a glass of water. The barman asks why he wants water and the guy says...

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ricardo A on Mon, 08/05/2017 - 23:16

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Hello! This sentence is correct? "what will you do next week?" Thanks in advance.

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 09/05/2017 - 06:48

In reply to by Ricardo A

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Hello Ricardo A,

It is grammatically correct, though whether it is correct in a specific context is another issue. As is described above, to speak about the future, we often use a variety of forms besides 'will' -- see our Future plans and talking about the future pages for more information on these different forms and how they are used.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zth on Wed, 19/04/2017 - 21:36

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Hello In this part "for something which is new and contrasts with a previous state", can we use "present simple" in these two sentences with the same meaning?

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 20/04/2017 - 06:34

In reply to by Zth

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Hello Zth,

Yes, you could use present simple in the example sentences there. They would have a similar meaning, but the present simple doesn't include the idea of a change or contrast in the same way that the present continuous does.

Other words in the sentence -- for example, in the first one, 'these days' -- can imply a change and so the sentence could still have the same meaning if you used the present simple. But it's more common for people to use the present continuous, as it reinforces the idea of change, and sometimes there are no other words or phrases that express this idea.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Alex H on Wed, 29/03/2017 - 15:48

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Hello!! I'd like to ask for temporary actions. Can I use present simple instead of present continuous to express temporary action or I should use only present continuous in this case? For example, "He is working as waiter until he finds another job" and "He works as waiter until he finds another job"

Hello Alex,

The present simple isn't used to speak about temporary actions in this way -- you should use the present continuous instead.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by The sky view on Fri, 03/03/2017 - 11:20

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Hello, When do we use present simple or present continuous with the adverb"nowadays"? e.g. What sort of clothes are teenagers wearing nowadays? I forget things more often nowadays. Many thanks.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 03/03/2017 - 13:38

In reply to by The sky view

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Hello The sky view,

You can use both the simple and continuous forms with 'nowadays'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hibary on Thu, 02/03/2017 - 21:04

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Hello, Which one is correct : 1) He always talks nonsense . 2)He's always talking nonsense . What i think that the second one is correct because it expresses repeated action with irritating! So could you help in that please? Thank you in advance ..

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 03/03/2017 - 06:28

In reply to by hibary

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Hello hibary,

Both forms are grammatically correct but mean slightly different things. The first is factual and makes an observation about his habitual behaviour. The second one makes an observation about his behaviour but also implies that the speaker has some kind of opinion about it – in this case, the speaker could, for example, be expressing their disapproval.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by _Bobby_ on Tue, 28/02/2017 - 09:52

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Dear Kirk/Peter, There are some verbs that can be either stative or action verbs -- depending on the situation. For instance, 'think' and 'have' are two frequently used verbs which we use a lot everyday. 1. I "think" Kirk and Peter are great. [stative verb -- express my opinion] 2. I'm "thinking" about your proposal. [action verb -- act of thinking] 3. I "have" a book. [stative verb -- I own sth] 4. I'm "having" fun here. [action verb -- act of fun] I know I can't use the stative verbs as a continuous form. On the other hand, I can use action verbs in any arbitrary tenses. But I guess I can't use 'SOME' stative verbs in other non-continuous forms? I mean: >>> I've thought my friend is great, so far.[It seems an action] >>> I have had a book. [it seems stative yet] Am I right? Thank u.

Hello _Bobby_,

The question of whether the verb is stative or dynamic depends upon its meaning. When 'think' is used to show an opinion then it is not used in continuous forms, but when it is used to mean 'consider' then it can be. In the first of the two examples at the end of your question the meaning is not entirely clear as the sentence does not have a full context but it seems likely that the meaning here is to have an opinion and so the continuous form would not be used.

Similarly, with the verb 'have' we have different meanings. When the meaning is related to possession we do not use continuous forms. When the meaning is different ('have a bath', 'have a coffee', 'have a meeting') we can use continuous forms. Your second sentence is about possession, so the continuous form would not be appropriate in this context.

You can read more on this topic on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by _Bobby_ on Sun, 12/02/2017 - 11:18

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Hello, dear Kirk/Peter 1- this sentence conveys a prediction/fact about the lack of adaptation ability:

"I may never get used to this situation."

[Present simple sentence] I guess I can't use it as a continuous form, due to "never". Am I right? 2- As you mentioned before "I am getting used to this kind of weather.", is a valid and grammatically correct sentence. Does it make sense we use: "I'm not getting used to this situation." instead of my first sentence as a complaint? Thank u.

Hello _Bobby_,

For 1, 'may' doesn't have a continuous form. It's possible to use a continuous infinitive after it (e.g. 'may be getting used to'), but you're right: in this case it'd be pretty unusual to use it. 2 is a much more likely way of expressing the kind of complaint that you seem to want to communicate. 'I'm not getting used to' is correct and is natural and I think says what you want it to.

Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Salie108 on Mon, 06/02/2017 - 15:07

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by comparing present simple and present continuous, is it correct that we can use either simple or continuous form for something which happens again and again?

Hello Salie108,

Yes, that is correct. There is a difference in meaning, however. The present simple is used when something is habitual or part of our normal routines. The present continuous is used when an action is in some way representative of a person - repeated behaviour which tells us about the kind of person they are. In this use, as the information above says, we tend to use 'always' (or 'forever' or 'constantly'). Most often we use this to describe annoying behaviour:

She's always leaving her homework to the last minute!

He's forever complaining about the neighbours, but he never does anything about them.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dilshu Wijesinghe on Thu, 02/02/2017 - 05:18

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Hello Teacher, How do I build a present continues negative interrogative statement to the following sentence? " I am eating rice. "

Hello Dilshu Wijesinghe,

I'm afraid we don't provide answers for questions from homework or tests elsewhere. We're happy to answer questions about how the language works or to explain things on our pages which you don't understand, of course.

You can learn about forming negatives on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir, Thank you very much for your help. I just only provide a example for a question I have on my mind. It's always a struggle to me to build a negative interrogative statement for a present continuous senetence use "I" as the subject. Can I transform the above example ( I am eating rice ) to negative interrogative like this. " Am not I eating rice? " Is this sentence correct?

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 04/02/2017 - 09:38

In reply to by Dilshu Wijesinghe

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Hello Dilshy Wijesinghe,

Yes, that is a correct sentence. It's not a very likely utterance, however. We might say this in a rhetorical manner, but not in any other context, I think.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for your valuable help and explaining the grammatical usage of the above sentence, sir. It is really useful to me.

Submitted by Jarek_O on Fri, 27/01/2017 - 21:19

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Hello Team, How would you classify the sentences from the article? For me these fit to something which happens again and again. Am I right? When we are telling a story: When we are summarising the story from a book, film or play etc.:

Hello Jarek_O,

The 'full' sentence here would be:

We can use the present continuous to talk about the past when we are telling a story.

We can use the present continuous to talk about the past when we are summarising the story from a book, film or play etc.

The present continuous is used here because it shows a time which is in process. We are in the middle of telling a story or summarising a story and while we are doing this we can use the present continuous.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by student2017 on Wed, 25/01/2017 - 18:30

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I would be thankful if you answered this question Why i the example above you used present continuous (At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast.) however;it is a habit?? and we are supposed to use present simple ? Thank you Best Regards....

Hello student2017,

As the explanation says, we use the present continuous for something which is in progress around (before and after) a given time. It's helpful to contrast the two forms:

At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast. [breakfast starts before 8.00 and finishes after it; at 8.00 the breakfast is in progress]

At eight o’clock we usually have breakfast. [breakfast starts at 8.00]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lith on Fri, 18/11/2016 - 17:07

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Hi teacher . I do not understand the last rule which say : we use present continuous for somethige happens again and again .. i know that we use present simple in this case ..

Hi lith,

You are correct that we use the present simple for actions which are typical or habitual. We use the present continuous when we want to emphasise that an action happens repeatedly, especially with a word like 'always' or 'constantly'. Most often this is when something is indicative of a person's character or nature, especially when it is irritating: Stephen is always borrowing my phone.

There is generally a choice between the present simple and continuous in these cases. Which one is used depends on the speaker and what they choose to emphasise.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by moe on Sun, 13/11/2016 - 20:20

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Hi! I am a little confused how to answer this sentence: ...... Esli .......(work) this week? Do we consider it a present continuous or future? Thanks for your contribution.

Hi moe,

There are many ways in which this sentence could be completed. Without any context it is not possible to say which is the most appropriate.

Please note that we have a police on LearnEnglish of not providing answers for tasks which are not from our pages. We are a small team here and cannot act as a resource for help with homework or tests from elsewhere - if we tried then we would have no time for anything else!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by marcusses on Wed, 09/11/2016 - 09:53

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Greetings, I have doubt about present simple and present continuous tense. We use present simple tense for something that is fixed is the future. But later, in present countinuous section, these is an example:"At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast." Question is: Isn't "At eight o'clock" something that is fixed in future and why we use present continuous tense here? I apologize if this was answered earlier. Thank You.

Hello marcusses,

Using the present simple or present continuous here shows how you (the person who speaks or writes the sentence) see the event. If you use the present simple tense, it can show that you are seeing breakfast at that time as a daily routine, i.e. as something that's always the same.

The present continuous would be better in other contexts when you aren't talking about breakfast as a routine but rather as an activity in progress. For example, if your friend in Hawai'i wants to Skype you at 21:00 his time and asks if that's OK, you could say, 'Yes, that's 8:00 in Serbia. We're usually having breakfast then.' In this context, his call at 8:00 is a point in a time and eating breakfast is an activity in progress at that time. The present continuous tense shows that you see it this way.

You could also say 'We eat at 8:00, so yes, that's OK' and it's correct - it just imagines the event from a different perspective.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Water on Sat, 22/10/2016 - 11:39

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Hello sir, Can it's possible that there is no object in a sentence. Pls help me find object in this sentence? 1. What are you doing next week?

Hello Water,

We divide questions in to subject questions and object questions. In a subject question, the question word is the subject of the verb. In an object question, such as yours, the question word ('what') is the object of the verb. You can see this clearly if you reverse the inversion (making it more of an exclamation than a question):

You are doing what next week?

Here, 'what' is clearly the object. It is the same in your question.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lord_sphinx on Fri, 14/10/2016 - 13:51

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I had a doubt. Can the present continuous tense be used for events that you are going to do in the near future? For example, if someone asks you to do something, and you reply "Okay, I'm doing it.". Is this grammatically correct to describe events that you will be doing in no time. Or is it that the phrase can be just used for when you are *actually doing* that job at that moment? If it can mean both, then is there any way that you can use to differentiate if this phrase is conveying a meaning indicating the future or the present? This question may have sounded a little funny, but I have seen people use it. Couldn't find any reliable resource on the web to verify its grammatical authenticity.

Hello lord_sphinx,

The present continuous can be used for either activities in progress (I'm doing it now) or activities arranged for a future time (I'm meeting Bob on Thursday). There is no was to tell from the structure itself what the time reference is, but it is usually obvious from the context. If it is not, and there is a possibility of confusion, then we can add a lexical time phrase, such as now and on Thursday in the examples above.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by nadisha on Thu, 13/10/2016 - 09:45

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Dear sir, You have mentioned that we can use present, present tense and past, past in the same sentence and also we can't use present, past in the same sentence. what are the other possible ways, can we use present, future and past, future tenses in the same sentence. Thank you!