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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THANKS A Lot and if you don't mind to answer another question of mine i can't find the perfect continuous tenses on your website does that mean that the perfect and the perfect continuous are the same ?

Hello omar123,

'Perfect' and 'continuous' are aspects rather than separate tenses. Each adds another layer of meaning to the verb and a verb form can have neither, one or both of these aspects. For example, all of the forms below are present forms:

[no aspect]  I live in Rome. [present simple]

[continuous aspect]  I am living in Rome. [present continuous]

[perfective aspect]  I have lived in Rome for five years. [present perfect simple]

[perfective and continuous aspect]  I have been living in Rome for five years. [present perfect continuous]

You can find information on the perfective aspect here and the continuous aspect here.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Asarhaddon on Mon, 01/01/2018 - 11:58

Permalink
There is a specific usage of present continuous, where it follows a simple present verb, e.g. "I can't remember doing this", "I love doing that", "She hates working" etc. Is there a rule behind this that could explain how to follow it? Does that rule apply to "I look forward to seeing you" (or its mutations)?

Hello Asarhaddon,

'doing' and 'working' in your three example sentences are -ing forms (which are not the same as the present continuous). When we use a verb after another verb, the first verb often determines what form the second verb goes in. In the case of 'remember', 'love' and 'hate', the second verb often goes in the -ing form. Other verbs require a bare infinitive (e.g. 'let' or 'make') and others require a to + infinitive (e.g. 'want'). If you follow the links you can read more about this.

'look forward to' is a little bit different. In this case, 'to' is a preposition (not part of an infinitive). Verbs that come after prepositions always go in the -ing form, which is why we say 'look forward to doing' and not 'look forward to do'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team