Present Continuous

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.

Examples:

  • 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:

  • 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:

Verb   Form Verb Example 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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:

Person Singular Plural
Person Singular Plural
First I am We are
Second You are You are
Third He/she/it is They are

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 + Auxiliary   verb + Verb + ing
e.g. I/a dog etc. is / are e.g. work/go/make
Examples Use
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)

 

Questions

Auxiliary   verb + Subject + Verb + ing
is / are e.g. I/a dog etc. e.g. work/go/make
Examples Use
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)

Negative Sentences

Subject + Auxiliary   verb + not + Verb + ing
e.g. I/a dog etc. is not / are not e.g. working/going/making
Examples Use
He is not joking Use 1)
We aren’t waiting for my uncle Use 1)
He is not going to school tomorrow Use 2)
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