Present Continuous

Basic form

Subject + IS/ARE + Verb (continuous form)

Quick examples

  • He is sleeping.
  • I am visiting grandpa in the afternoon.
  • You are always coming late for the meetings!

The Present Continuous is mainly used to express the idea that something is happening at the moment of speaking. The Present Continuous also describes activities generally in progress (not at the moment). Another use of the tense is to talk about temporary actions or future plans.

Use

  1. Present actions
  2. Temporary actions
  3. Longer actions in progress
  4. Future (personal) arrangements and plans
  5. Tendencies and trends
  6. Irritation

Use 1: Present Actions

Most often, we use the Present Continuous tense to talk about actions happening at the moment of speaking.

  • He is eating a dinner.
  • Mary is talking with her friends.
  • They are swimming in the pool.
Stative (State) Verbs

There is a certain group of verbs that usually does not appear in the Continuous form. They are called Stative (State) Verbs, and if used in the Continuous form, they have a different meaning.

Examples:

  • I think you look pretty today. meaning: Opinion
  • I'm thinking of moving to San Francisco. meaning: Act of thinking

Read more

Sorry, you need to install flash to see this content.
[ I 'm having a shower now. ]

Explanation

In this cartoon, you can see a man in the shower who says: "I'm taking a shower now".

  • Why is the Present Continuous tense used in this example? Because the Johny is taking shower at this precise moment.

Use 2: Temporary Actions

This tense is also used for activities continuing only for a limited period of time.

  • I'm riding a bike to get to work because my car is broken. Temporary Action (His car will soon be repaired)
  • They are not talking with each other after the last argument. Temporary Action (They will soon make up)
  • Mary is working at McDonald's. Temporary Action (She is working there only during the summer holidays)

Use 3: Longer Actions in Progress

We also use the Present Continuous when we are in the middle of doing something time-consuming (i.e. something that takes time to complete). An example of such an activity is writing a book, saving money or studying for an exam.

  • They are working hard to earn money.
  • I am training to become a professional footballer.
  • Mike is studying hard to become a doctor.
  • Elizabeth is currently writing a children's book titled I am the World.

To understand this use better, watch this interactive animation:


Sorry, you need to install flash to see this content.
I'm writing an adventure book.

Explanation

In this cartoon, you can a man who says: "I'm writing an adventure book".

  • Why is the Present Continuous tense used in this example? Click on the buttons located on the Timeline to see the other scenes. You will find out that Alex (the writer) was writing the book a month ago, two months ago and four months ago. Clearly, it's a longer action in progress.

Use 4: Future (Personal) Arrangements and Plans

Sometimes we use the Present Continuous to show that something is planned and will be done in the near future.

  • I'm meeting Katie in the evening.
  • He's flying to Rome in September.
  • We're not going anywhere tomorrow.

Use 5: Tendencies and Trends

This tense is also used for expressing tendencies or trends.

  • Our country is getting richer.
  • The Internet is becoming less of a novelty.
  • The Universe is expanding.

Use 6: Irritation or Anger

And the last use of this tense is to express irritation or anger over somebody or something in the present with adverbs such as: always, continually or contantly.

  • She is continually complaining about everything!
  • Johny is always asking stupid questions!
  • My boss is contantly critising me!

Form

To form a sentence in the Present Continuous, you have to:

  • know the proper conjugation of the auxiliary verb .
    PersonSingularPlural
    FirstI amWe are
    SecondYou areYou are
    ThirdHe/she/it isThey are
  • add the "ing" suffix to the verb (to form the present participle of the verb). Examples:
    • try + ing = trying
    • go + ing = going

Contracted forms (more)

  • I + am = I'm
  • is + not = isn't
  • are + not = aren't
  • he + is = he's
  • she + is = she's
  • it + is= it's

Declarative Sentences

Subject+IS/ARE+Verb + ING
e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.e.g. walking, going, taking, etc.
ExamplesUse (click to read)
I am reading a book. 1
They are swimming in the sea.1
I am having my first driving lesson this week.4
He's studying to become lawyer one day3
She is always asking me stupid questions.5

Questions

IS/ARE+Subject+Verb + ING
e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.e.g. walking, going, taking, etc.
ExamplesUse (click to read)
Is she eating my cake now? 1
Are they having the party on Friday or Saturday?2
Are you meeting David today?2
Is Mary having breakfast now?1

Negative Sentences


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Subject+IS NOT / ARE NOT+Verb + ING
e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.e.g. walking, going, taking, etc.
ExamplesUse (click to read)
He isn't joking.1
We aren't waiting for my uncle.1
He is not going to school tomorrow.2

Check your understanding!