The Present Continuous is a very popular tense in English.
We use the Present Continuous as often as the Present Simple! That is why you should know the Present Continuous well.
What is the Present Continuous?
Why is the Present Continuous so popular? Because we use this tense to talk about continuous actions that take place in the present, often at the very moment of speaking. And this is a huge number of actions that we do all the time!
These actions can be quick and short:
Look, I am jumping!
Or such actions can last for a long time and be global, slowly evolving:
I think the climate is changing …
Another reason for the popularity of the Present Continuous is that the Present Continuous carries several additional functions.
The Present Continuous is involved in the formation of several important grammatical constructions.
Sometimes English learners have difficulty with the fact that there is no analog of the Present Continuous in their native language. Even so, you will be able to understand what the Present Continuous is. It’s not difficult at all!
Present Progressive or Present Continuous?
This tense is often called either the Present Progressive or Present Continuous.
Both of these names are correct, and you can find any of them in various English grammar textbooks. We will call it the Present Continuous.
Meaning of Present Continuous
The main purpose of the Present Continuous is to show an action or process that takes place at the moment of speaking.
If you are walking down the street and someone asks:
What are you doing now?
Then you can safely use the Present Continuous, answering:
I am walking down the street.
Because you perform this action at the moment of speaking.
But this does not mean that if you suddenly stop in the middle of the street, you cannot say “I’m walking down the street”. You can say that! Even if you stop, you are still in the process of performing your action in the general sense, which is “walking down the street.”
We usually use the Present Continuous with words that indicate that the action is happening right at the moment of speaking:
- at the moment
- this minute
- right now
How to form sentences
To form a sentence in the Present Continuous, we need two main components:
- Suitable form of the verb to be.
- The main verb with the -ing ending.
Now let’s take a closer look at these two components:
- We use the verb to be in the Present Continuous in the same forms as we use the verb to be in the Present Simple.
- I am
- He is
- She is
- It is
- We are
- They are
- You are
- The main verb is a verb that shows us what action happens in a sentence.
In the Present Continuous, the main verb changes as follows:
We use the verb in the base form and add the -ing ending to the verb.
- Jump – Jumping
- Run – Running
- Read – Reading
- Talk – Talking
For some verbs, you can simply add the -ing ending. Some verbs take the -ing ending according to some rules.
How to form Affirmative (Positive) Sentences in Present Continuous
To form an affirmative (positive) sentence in the Present Continuous, we put the subject first in the sentence. After the subject, we put the right form of the verb to be. Then we put the main verb with the -ing ending. Then we put the rest of the sentence if necessary.
Subject (I, he, dog, people, John) + to be (am, is, are) + main verb with -ing (reading, jumping, playing) + the rest of the sentence
I am dancing in the dark.
She is singing beautifully.
These guys are running really fast.
How to form Interrogative (Question) Sentences in Present Continuous
We form questions in the Present Continuous in the following way:
We put first the right form of the verb to be (am, is, are), which serves as the auxiliary verb that shows that this is an interrogative (question) sentence. Then we put in the subject. After the subject, we put the main verb with the -ing ending. After which we put the rest of the sentence, if necessary.
to be (am, is, are) + subject (I, he, dog, people, John) + main verb with -ing (reading, jumping, playing) + the rest of the sentence
Am I dancing in the dark?
Is she singing beautifully?
Are these guys running really fast?
How to form Negative Sentences in Present Continuous
In negative sentences, we put the subject first. After the subject, we put the verb to be with the negative not. Then we put the main verb with the -ing ending. After which we put the rest of the sentence, if necessary.
Subject (I, he, dog, people, John) + to be (am, is, are) + not + main verb with -ing (reading, jumping, Playing) + rest of the sentence
I am not dancing in the dark.
She is not singing beautifully.
These guys are not running fast.
When we Use Present Continuous?
We use the Present Continuous in many cases. Let’s take a look at the most popular of them.
- We use the Present Continuous when we describe the action that occurs at the moment of speaking. In such sentences, we often use words that indicate that the action takes place exactly at the moment of speaking. These are words such as: “At the moment”, “Now”, “At this moment”.
I’m walking down the street now.
She is reading a book at the moment.
- We use the Present Continuous to describe actions that are currently taking place, but not necessarily at the moment of speaking. Such actions could have begun a long time ago, even a very long time ago. The main thing is that these actions continue to last at the moment too. Often such actions are accompanied by words such as: currently, these days, etc.
I am watching a fascinating TV show. It has 50 episodes!
I am traveling around the world in my car.
- To describe two or more actions that occur simultaneously at the moment of speaking.
I’m walking down the street now, and my wife is running around the shops!
At the moment I am working, and my children are running around me and screaming! They are just having fun.
- We use the Present Continuous to express dissatisfaction or resentment about someone or something. Because using the Present Continuous’ dynamics we add expression to the sentence. This is how we express our dissatisfaction or indignation. Such expressions can be accompanied by the words: Always, Constantly, Every time, Day after day, Without stopping, etc.
She is constantly complaining about her life.
I am watching TV day after day!
John is smoking too much.
- To talk about the unusual behavior of someone or something. Or when we want to tell about something that we have not seen before.
I can’t believe, Jessica is playing sports.
He is eating too much these days!
Note: It is important to understand that we use the Present Continuous in such cases when we describe really unusual behavior that surprises us or attracts our attention.
- We use the Present Continuous to describe actions that are planned. It is important here to understand that we use the Present Continuous in this case when we are talking about the actions that we really planned and decided to do some time ago. In this case, we are confident that we will do what we have planned.
Often in such sentences, we use words that specify the time of our planned actions: “next day”, “next month”, “tomorrow”, “in two hours”, etc.
We are moving to a new home in two weeks.
John and Jessica are going to the theatre tomorrow.
NOTE: When we use the Present Continuous to talk about our plans, we mean that we not only planned an action, but also did everything necessary to accomplish it. Therefore, the sentence “John and Jessica are going to the theatre tomorrow” means that John has made an agreement with Jessica and may have already bought tickets. It was indeed a planned action.
- Another interesting use of the Present Continuous when we talk about temporary situations. These are cases when we are talking about some actions, often from life, which are of a temporary nature.
Grandma stays with us for two weeks.
John is using his father’s car while John’s car is being repaired.
Often in such sentences, we use additional words (until, during, while, etc.), which express that the action is temporary.
Note: It is important here to understand that the Present Continuous is used in the examples to show that Grandmother does not live there all the time, she just came to visit for two weeks. John will not drive his father’s car all the time, he took it for a while. If situations are not temporary, then we do not use the Present Continuous but the Present Simple.
I live in London. This sentence means that I live in London all the time. Probably whole my life.
I am living in London. This sentence means that I am living in London temporarily. Maybe I moved to London because of my job. I am not going to live in London for my whole life.
- We use the Present Continuous to describe a situation that is changing or evolving. In these cases, we use the Present Continuous to emphasize the dynamics of development or change. In such cases, we can use words like: become, start, change, etc.
Climate is changing.
The children are growing up so fast!
The situation is getting worse and worse.
- We use the Present Continuous with verbs of movement when talking about the near future. We can use verbs such as: Go, Come, Leave, Start, End, etc.
I’m going to visit Mark.
John is starting a new business.
I am leaving this party.
- We use the Present Continuous to say about something new, in the case when this something new is contrasted (put in comparison, compared) with the way it was before.
Unfortunately, I am watching TV all day, but I used to play sports.
He quit his job, he is writing books now.
People are working less these days than it was in the old days.
Another use case for the Present Continuous is Time Clauses after Conjunctions:
- as long as
- in case
Such sentences have two parts:
- Continuous action expressed in the Present Continuous.
- Short action expressed in the Present Simple.
Putting these two parts together, we describe some kind of ongoing action against the background of some kind of short action.
Conjunctions such as as long as, while, when, etc. help us connect the two. We often use this construction when we talk about ordinary life situations.
You call me at that moment when I am walking down the street. Call me back later!
They make noise while John is trying to focus on his work!
How to use Stative verbs in Present Continuous
Action verbs in the Present Continuous can be used with the -ing ending. But in English, there is a group of verbs that we do not use with -ing. These are stative verbs, non-continuous verbs.
For example, verbs that describe feelings (love, want). We use these verbs with the Present Simple instead of the Present Continuous.
We can say in the Present Continuous:
I’m going home.
We cannot say in the Present Continuous:
I am understanding that it is time for me to go home.
To say this we use the Present Simple:
I understand that it is time for me to go home.
Stative verbs are not used with the -ing ending. They cannot be in the process of duration. Because it is impossible to see or feel their dynamics.
You can imagine how John runs, Jessica jumps, or a bird flies. These are all processes that can take place in dynamics. But how can the verb “Understand” occur in action?
Therefore, the group of Stative verbs includes verbs of feelings, emotions, thought processes, and perception, such as:
What to do with these verbs? Nothing complicated! We just use these verbs in the Present Simple instead of the Present Continuous.
You can form a whole sentence using the Present Continuous with Action verbs. Then if we need to add a Stative verb to such a sentence, we just use the Present Simple.
Let’s write a sentence like this where all actions happen at the same time. We use some verbs in the Present Continuous because these verbs mean continuous actions. We use the Present Simple for others verbs from the group of Stative verbs:
I am playing with dolls, John is reading, but I think he don’t like the book.
You see, there is nothing complicated about it.
Cases when we can use Stative verbs
However, in English, there is an exception for every rule 🙂
Therefore, now I am going to tell you about a case when even a Stative verb can be used in the Present Continuous.
We can use Stative verbs in the Present Continuous to emphasize our emotions or feelings.
I am thinking! Do not bother me!
Yes, I am hating you right now!
See? In these examples, we want to emphasize that the Stative verb is very important at the moment of speaking. Therefore, we put the Stative verb in the progressive (continuous) form.
When we can use to have as a continuous verb (to have with -ing)
The verb to have is also a Stative verb. But we can use to have in the Present Continuous. We can add the -ing ending to the verb to have in the Present Continuous. We do this in some special cases.
For example, we use the verb to have with the -ing ending if the verb to have is a part of some Fixed Expressions:
- to have a breakfast
- to have a brake
- to have fun
We can use these constant expressions in the Present Continuous by adding -ing to the verb to have:
I am having breakfast.
We are having fun!
When we can use to be as a continuous verb (to be with -ing)
The verb to be is also a Stative verb. But sometimes we can use the verb to be with the -ing ending in the Present Continuous.
IMPORTANT: In this case, I mean the verb to be in its base form without to – be. It is be that we can turn into being using the -ing ending.
be + -ing = being.
Remember: We cannot add the -ing ending to to be forms such as am, was, are, is, etc. We can only add -ing to one base form of the verb to be – be.
We use the verb to be in the form being when we want to emphasize that someone or something behaves in a certain way at a particular moment of speaking.
Stop being so rude.
She is being so nice to our children.
Look at her. She is being weird after I told her the secret.
In these examples, we emphasize the behavior of someone at the moment of speaking.
What is the difference between Present Continuous vs Present Simple. Examples.
The Present Simple and the Present Continuous are great friends. The Present Simple is often used in conjunction with the Present Continuous.
For example, when we tell a story. We tell some details of the story in the Present Simple and some in the Present Continuous. Thus, we can tell that some action takes place against the background of another action.
I go out into the garden where flowers are blooming, birds are singing and everything around is so beautiful!
But how do we know when we should USE the Present Continuous and when the Present Simple? After all, both of these tenses refer to the present. Both of them are used very, very often.
Let’s take a look at the main differences between the Present Continuous and the Present Simple:
- We use the Present Simple with non-action verbs, non-progressive verbs that describe feelings, sensations, perceptions, thought processes. We use such verbs in the Present Continuous only in rare situations.
I want to eat.
Right now, Jack is thinking about how much he loves Jessica.
- We use the Present Simple when talking about situations or actions that are permanent. We use the Present Continuous when we talk about temporary actions.
Grandma is living with us.
Grandma lives with us.
In the first example, Grandma lives with us and this is temporary because she came to visit us. In the second example, Grandma lives with us all the time.
- We use the Present Simple to describe facts, truths that everyone knows. We use the Present Continuous to describe facts or truths that occur at the moment of speaking or are facts and truths at the moment of speaking.
The dog is running around the yard.
This means that the dog is rinning right at the moment of speaking.
The dog runs around the yard every day.
This means that the dog runs around the yard every day. The dog loves to run around the yard. The dog does it every day. This does not happen at the moment of speaking.
- We use the Present Simple to describe actions that do not occur at the moment of speaking and are not related to the present moment. The Present Continuous describes actions that are related to the present, even if they do not occur at the moment of speaking.
I jog three times a week.
Lately, I am jogging a lot.
Markers of Present Continuous
The Present Continuous markers are words that indicate that actions occur at the moment of speaking:
- At the moment
- This minute
- In this situation
I’m busy right now, I am working!
At this moment they are flying in an airplane over Paris.
Examples of Present Continuous
Take a look at some examples of the Present Continuous. These examples will help you understand this lesson better.
I cannot speak on the phone, I am driving.
Mom is busy now, she is cleaning the kitchen.
Watch your brother is dancing.
I’m reading a book now.
They are running very fast, look!
He is walking in the park.