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

Matching_MTYyNzM=

Present continuous 2

GapFillTyping_MTYyNzQ=

  • 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

TrueOrFalse_MTYyNzU=

Present continuous 4

GapFillTyping_MTYyNzY=

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

ReorderingHorizontal_MTYyNzg=

Present continuous questions 2

GapFillTyping_MTYyNzk=

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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTYyODA=

Present continuous negatives 2

GapFillTyping_MTYyODE=

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

Matching_MTYyNzc=

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.

Submitted by nastya_lenckaia on Sun, 03/01/2016 - 13:43

Permalink
Hello everyone! I'm still confused in using Present Simple and Present Progressive when talking "something happens again and again". For example, I have a situation like my friend (native german - speaker) uses English language to communicate with me when he wants to practice it, but usually we speak German. What variant would be correct if I say the phrase now, in the moment of speaking with my friend : "Most of the time we're speaking German" (I want to emphasize that we speak German almost always instead of practicing English) or "Most of the time we speak German"? Thanks

Hello nastya_lenckaia,

In this context both are possible. The simple form is probably the more common, suggesting a habit or typical behaviour, while the continuous suggests a repeated action and is also possible, though less common.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sonel on Fri, 01/01/2016 - 16:19

Permalink
We use simple present for future fixed arrangements & present continuous for future planned situations. Both are same. So does it mean that we can use both forms when we talk about arrangements in future??? For eg- We fly to Paris next week. We are flying to Paris next week. Both mean same & are correct according to your context and egs given in ur lessons Please help, i am really confused.

Hello Sonel,

The present simple tends to be used more to refer to future events that are fixed due to being part of a timetable and the present continuous more for other arranged plans. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but tends to be true. Without context it's impossible to explain completely, but, for example, in the two sentences you mention, the first could focus more on the fact that it's part of a schedule, whereas the second could be focusing more on the plan to travel.

In general, the present continuous is used far more often to refer to the future than the present simple, so if you're in doubt, most of the time using the present continuous will be correct.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by phthao1904 on Tue, 15/12/2015 - 08:35

Permalink
Hi everyone, I have a question We can use the present continuous to talk about the past: When we are telling a story: When we are summarising the story from a book, film or play etc.: Can you give me an example for this and what is the different between pre. cont. and past cont. ? Thank you very much indeed.

Hello phthao1904,

In general, I'd recommend you use the past continuous to speak about past events. It's true that the present tenses can be used as well – people typically use them because it makes the story seem more present – but this is not as common and could be perceived by others as a mistake on your part (even when it isn't).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by georgia.gram on Wed, 18/11/2015 - 22:02

Permalink
Hello, I have a question too. In the sentence "Do you always listen to the radio when you are driving?" why is it "you are driving" (present continuous) since it is talking about every time somebody drives?

Hello georgia.gram,

The question is asking about one action (listen to the radio) which takes place during another action (driving), and so the contrinuous form is used. It assumes that the driving goes on for some time and the listening is inside that time.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nguyen Dinh Mai on Sat, 24/10/2015 - 03:54

Permalink
Hi all, The above questions and answers are very relevant and helpful. They make me feel more confident in using English and enyoy the subtlety of a language I'm trying hard to master.

Submitted by wengsun85 on Wed, 21/10/2015 - 16:19

Permalink
I have a question: Present Simple: He always talks nonsense. Present Continuous: He is always talking nonsense. Both talk about something happens again and again. How to differentiate this? Thanks!

Hello wengsun85,

In general, the present simple is used to speak about repeated actions. But if this repeated action is also occurring around the time of speaking, the present continuous is also sometimes used. In your examples, the second sentence would imply that the person is talking nonsense in that moment or has done so recently.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lucifer7 on Thu, 24/09/2015 - 00:28

Permalink
Hello! Can I use Present Simple when I telling a story or only Present Continuous?

Submitted by Lucifer7 on Fri, 25/09/2015 - 00:03

In reply to by Lucifer7

Permalink
I find the answer in comments site. thx ...or should i say: ''I have find the answer in comments site''?

Hello Lucifer7,

I would say 'I have found the answer in the comments section'.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 25/09/2015 - 13:32

In reply to by Lucifer7

Permalink

Hello Lucifer7,

Yes, this is quite common. In such cases, the present simple is usually used to describe events and the present continuous is used to supply background information. For example, 'So I'm walking down the street and this police officer comes up to me. 'Come with me', she says ...'

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by asdraditya on Fri, 18/09/2015 - 08:46

Permalink
I like spending time and learning english here . I like spending time and learn english here . Which of these sentences is correct? Plz reply soon

Submitted by Tanya Leonova on Wed, 26/08/2015 - 07:09

Permalink
Both Present simple and present continuous are used for future arranged event. How do we choose when to use either of them for future actions?

Hello Tanya,

The present simple is used for future events which are part of a regular or fixed schedule. Typically these are events or activities which are part of a timetable, such as class times, train times etc.

The present continuous is used for future events which have been arranged and agreed. Typically these are events or activities which two or more people have decided together.

For more information on talking about the future in English see here.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by manthan228 on Sat, 01/08/2015 - 21:44

Permalink
What is the correct answer below question. Q. I am starting to __ my mind. a. lost b. loose c. lose d. loss e. losing

Hello manthan228,

I'm afraid we don't answer questions like this from tests of homework outside of the site. Perhaps one of our other users will help you, however.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by EtWsth8790 on Sun, 26/07/2015 - 02:36

Permalink
Hi Gentlemen, thank you so much for this brief guide, it has been very helpful to me , I would like to clarify a doubt that arose me, are both correct "he is always laughing" and "he laughs all the time", do they mean the same? Thank you in advance, cheers :)

Hi EtWsth8790.

Both mean that laughing is a common action for the person, but the first one may indicate that the speaker finds it irritating, while the second is more neutral. It's hard to say without knowing the context, however.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglsh Team

Submitted by manojparmar on Fri, 03/07/2015 - 12:29

Permalink
Hi Experts, It would be great help to eliminate the big confusion on following sentences: Following 2 sentences are present continuous, then what is the difference between them and why both are correct: Is your great-grandmother still alive? & Is your great-grandmother still living? thanks in advance...!! Manoj

Hi manojparmar,

Both of those are fine and describe a current situation. The difference is grammatical: one uses a to be + adjective (is alive) whereas the other uses a present continuous form of the verb 'live' (is living).

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by OldaB on Fri, 03/07/2015 - 10:29

Permalink
May I have a question regarding the use of present continuous? Suppose an Englishman saw a thief when he stole a purse from a lady. He is now describing the thief to a policeman (in the present tense): “The thief is young – about twenty. He is very thin and tall, his shoes are dirty with mud. He is wearing black jeans and has a dog with him.” Could the Englishman use present continuous that way (e.g. “he is wearing black jeans”)? Thanks.

Hello OldaB,

If the speaker thinks that the thief is still wearing the jeans now (i.e. has not changed his clothes) then the present continuous would be possible. Otherwise the past continuous would be used.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Peter. The speaker thought that the thief was still wearing the jeans. And he was right: when the police caught the thief, he had the same jeans on. :-) OldaB

Submitted by Sourav Saha on Tue, 30/06/2015 - 03:35

Permalink
Sir,I have a question regarding the statement:"At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast." Why can't we write the statement like this:"At eight o’clock we usually have our breakfast."

Hello souravsaha1605,

The present simple is the more commonly used tense here, as it is used to talk about repeated or habitual actions. Talking about a repeated action (as in your sentence) using the present continuous gives an additional layer of meaning, as if we were viewing the action happening right now. It is therefore often used to contrast with the present time, e.g. today we are having lunch at 8 (presumably because we woke up at 2am) whereas usually we are having breakfast at 8.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by demienalmos on Tue, 23/06/2015 - 01:36

Permalink
Hi, is there anyway the sentence, "I am walking to school every morning," is correct or should we only use Present Simple for that? Thank you in advance.

Submitted by MadSyria on Sun, 21/06/2015 - 21:18

Permalink
hello thank you for this tutorial I get confused a little bit, you said that we use present continuous to talk about past with story and when summarizing the story from a book, film or play other site states that we use present simple when talking about story and play for example " the hero dies at the end of the story" can you please tell me which is the true ? and please tell me if I made a grammatical mistakes in this comment :) many thanks and best regards

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 22/06/2015 - 07:56

In reply to by MadSyria

Permalink

Hello MadSyria,

You can see a few examples of these uses of the present simple and present continuous in the exercises. Both present simple and present continuous can be used to tell a story in the past. By using a present tense to talk about the past, the story often feels more real – it's as if we are witnessing the story in that past time. We use the present simple to talk about something that is always true or habits and the present continuous to talk about things that are developing, etc. 

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wahyueko on Tue, 16/06/2015 - 10:32

Permalink
please explain to me aboout these sentence, where is the right sentence ? i see john playing football. (this pettern in some article) i see john is playing football.

Hello wahyueko,

Both sentences are correct but are used for different purposes. In the first you are simply describing an action that you see in progress. In the second you are describing something that you see in progress, but also calling attention to it. The second sentence would make more sense, for example, if you didn't expect to see John playing, or if you wanted someone else to see that John is back on the pitch.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sarah e on Mon, 08/06/2015 - 14:08

Permalink
Hi, I don't think this sentence can be used, but my colleague thinks otherwise. Please could you help me explain? 'We are continuing to have a fabulous reaction to our shabby chic home and giftware since we met you at the show with exciting new pieces being added all the time.'

Hi sarah e,

This is not really the kind of query we deal with here on LearnEnglish - we are really here to help users with the materials on the site rather than offer a consulting service! However, I can tell you that the sentence is not entirely grammatical because the tense use (present continuous) and time reference (unfinished past with 'since') do not match.

The fabulous reaction to our shabby chic home and giftware that we we have had since we met you at the show continues, with exciting new pieces being added all the time.

However, I would say that the sentence as a whole is clumsy to my ear and some of the vocabulary seems rather odd as well ('shabby chic home'). However, these are more questions of style.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by soon_hl on Sat, 30/05/2015 - 14:53

Permalink
Dear sir, Could you advise present continuous tense as following. Eg: He is going for tuition on Monday. Can I use on Monday? Thanks.

Hello soon_hl,

That is perfectly fine. The 'going to' form here has a future meaning, so it is quite correct to use 'on Monday' here.

You can learn more about how to talk about the future here.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you sir. I've another question for instance, He is eating on Monday. Can I use 'on Monday ' in this case?

Hello soon_hi,

This is grammatically possibly but unlikely. We use the present continuous for future meaning only when the future event is arranged or already organised in some way. Thus we would only say this if the 'eating' is something that has been specially arranged, such as a special dinner event or similar.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by misam on Thu, 28/05/2015 - 13:42

Permalink
hello dear Peter and Kirk i wonder if you could please explain the last use more. i am not able to grasp it. thank you.

Hello misam,

When we are summarising a film, story etc. we can use the present continuous to bring it to life. For example:

I saw a great film last week.

Really? What was it about?

Well, it's set in London. The main character is working in a bank but he's not happy and he's thinking about changing his job. Then one day...

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Verony on Fri, 15/05/2015 - 08:56

Permalink
Hi, I've read about present simple and present continuous and I'm wondering about the use of these both tenses in telling "something that happens again and again". Is there any difference between these two tenses in this kind of using? Examples: 1. It's always raining in London Can I say " It always rains in London (using present simple)? 2. They're always arguing Can I say "They always argue"? I'm also confuse about the use of present simple and present continuous in telling about "schedule or our plan in the future" : 1. Mary is going to a school next term Can I say "Mary goes to a school next term" 2. What are you doing next week? Can I say "What do you do next week?" Thank you for reading my questions and answering them.

Hello Verony,

The present simple can be used to talk about something that happens repeatedly or habitually, and the present continuous can also be used to talk about something that happens repeatedly as long as it is connected with the time of speaking (or around then). The continuous form often can also be used to express some kind of annoyance, i.e. that the speaker thinks the action happens too often.

So in sentence 1, both forms are possible, though the first one should be used when it's connected with the time of speaking in some way. As for sentence 2, both are also possible, but should be used in the same way as I explained above.

As for your second question, the present simple is only used to talk about the future when referring to some sort of timetable, e.g. train or flight arrivals, work schedules, etc. Otherwise, the present continuous, 'going to' or 'will' are used – see our talking about the future page for an explanation of these. I'd also recommend taking a look at our continuous aspect page regarding your first question.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by AvramCiprian on Thu, 14/05/2015 - 14:35

Permalink
My English teacher she said that sentence is correct. He usually sits down and uses computer. not ......He usually sits down and is using a computer What do you think?

Hello AvramCiprian,

The first sentence is correct (though we shoudl say 'a computer') if we are talking about his general behaviour.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by AvramCiprian on Sat, 09/05/2015 - 11:15

Permalink
I'm just started to learn grammar English.In this case which sentence is correct: He usually sits down and is using a computer He usually sitting down and is using a computer