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.
- Present actions
- Temporary actions
- Longer actions in progress
- Future (personal) arrangements and plans
- Tendencies and trends
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.
- o I think you look pretty today. meaning: Opinion
- o I’m thinking of moving to San Francisco. meaning: Act of thinking
Some verbs used in the simple form can also be used in the continuous form. That’s typically when they have an active meaning or emphasize change. Very often these sentences have a completely different meaning:
|Simple||to think||I think you should see a doctor||opinion|
|Continuous||to be thinking||I’m thinking of changing my flat||trying to reach a decision|
|Simple||to love||I love going to the cinema||feeling|
|Continuous||to be loving||You look great in this hat. I’m loving it, man!||emphasis or gradual process|
|Simple||to smell||I smell something burning||sense|
|Continuous||to be smelling||My baby was smelling a flower||activity|
|Simple||to have||He’s really rich — he has 3 cars||possession|
|Continuous||to be having||When you called me, I was having a bath||activity|
|Simple||to see||I can see you have a big garden||sense|
|Continuous||to be seeing||I’m seeing him later||appointment|
|Simple||to taste||I could taste a lot of sugar in the wine||sense|
|Continuous||to be tasting||He was tasting the cake and said it was OK||activity|
Keep in mind there is a group of verbs that can be used in both the continuous and simple forms with no difference. These are, for example, the verbs “to hurt” and “to feel”:
- How is Maryfeeling after the accident?
- How does she feelafter the accident?
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.
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!
To form a sentence in the Present Continuous, you have to:
- know the proper conjugation of the auxiliary verb
|First||I am||We are|
|Second||You are||You are|
|Third||He/she/it is||They are|
- add the ing suffix to the verb (to form the present participle of the verb)
- 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
|Subject||+||Auxiliary verb||+||Verb + ing|
|e.g. I/a dog etc.||is / are||e.g. work/go/make|
|I am reading a book.||(Use 1)|
|They are swimming in the sea.||(Use 1)|
|I‘m having my first driving lesson this week.||(Use 4)|
|I‘m studying to become lawyer one day.||(Use 3)|
|She is always asking me stupid questions.||(Use 5)|
|Auxiliary verb||+||Subject||+||Verb + ing|
|is / are||e.g. I/a dog etc.||e.g. work/go/make|
|Is she eating my cake now?||(Use 1)|
|Are they having the party on Friday or Saturday?||(Use 2)|
|Are you meeting David today?||(Use 2)|
|Is Mary having breakfast now?||(Use 1)|
|Subject||+||Auxiliary verb + not||+||Verb + ing|
|e.g. I/a dog etc.||is not / are not||e.g. working/going/making|
|He is not joking||Use 1)|
|We aren’t waiting for my uncle||Use 1)|
|He is not going to school tomorrow||Use 2)|