The Present Continuous

The Present Continuous tense – What you need to know

In this post, I want to help you to understand the Present Continuous(also called the Present Progressive) and be able to use it correctly.

My name is Conor and I have been an English teacher for 10 years.

I want to help you to know why we use different verb tenses and explain the form and the uses of the Present Continuous.

So, let’s begin…

How to form the Present Continuous

Positive

To form positive sentences we use the present simple of the verb to be and the ing form of the verb you want to use.

Example: I am playing the guitar.

Negative

To form negative sentences in the present continuous we add not after the verb to be and before the ing verb that you want to use. 

Example: I am not playing the guitar.

Questions

To form a question in the Present Continuous we change the order of the subject and the verb to be. 

So… You are talking —-> Are you talking?

Example: Are you playing the guitar?

Positive Negative Question
I am talking
I am not talking
Am I talking?
You are talking
You are not talking
Are you talking?
He/She is talking
He/She is not talking
Is he/she talking?
We are talking
We are not talking
Are we talking?
They are talking
They are not talking
Are they talking?

When to Use the Present continuous

Uses

  • Actions happening now
  • Actions that are incomplete
  • Future arrangements

 

1. The present continuous is for things happening now

So for example: 

I am writing this explanation now.

You are reading this website now.

Present continuous use 1

2. We also use the present continuous when we want to say that something is incomplete. That means we are in the middle of the process and we are continuing to work on this project.

I am working on a big project at the moment. (the project is incomplete)I am learning how to play the guitar. (I am not an expert)

Present continuous use

3. We also use the Present Continuous in the future. It is for plans and arrangements with other people.

I am meeting my mother for lunch.

We are taking the train.

Present continuous use

Time words – Today, This week, This year, 

The Present Continuous is usually used with the idea of now. Here is a list of time words that can help you to understand when to use it correctly.

  • Now
  • At the moment 
  • Right now
  • Currently 
  • Right away
  • Today 
  • This week
  • This year
  • This evening
  • Tomorrow
  • This Saturday

Present Continuous Vs Present Simple

The present simple is used for habits and routines and things in general. It is not for things happening now. 

Look at the difference in this example:

I play football.  

I am playing football.

In the first example, I want to say that it is my habit to play football. I play football every Tuesday.

In the second example, I want to say that I am playing football now. (or I have a plan to play football in the near future)

Another example:

He is nice 

He is being nice.

In the first example, we mean that he is generally nice but in the second example we mean that he is being nice now but maybe he is not always nice!

(Future)To be Going to- What’s the difference?

If you know your English grammar, you know that we use “Going to” for future plans.

Yes, you can use “Going to” or the “Present Continuous” for future plans.

The only difference is that we prefer to use the present continuous when we make plans with other people. 

I am meeting John later. 

You can also use “I am going to meet John later” but the first example is more common.

If you have a plan by yourself, then you use “going to”

I am going to study later.

Common verbs with Present Continuous

We use the present continuous when we talk about changes happening around now:

  • get 
  • change 
  • become 
  • increase 
  • rise 
  • fall 
  • grow 
  • improve 
  • begin 
  • start

Verbs not used in the Present Continuous

We use continuous forms for actions that are incomplete (We are doing our homework.). Some verbs (for example, know and like) are not normally used in this way. We don’t say ‘I am knowing’ or ‘they are liking’; we say ‘I know’, ‘they like’.

The following verbs are not normally used in the present continuous:

  • like 
  • want 
  • need 
  • prefer
  • know 
  • realize 
  • suppose 
  • mean 
  • understand 
  • believe 
  • remember

Exercise on Present Continuous

Write the correct form of the Present Continuous

  1. Peter _______ football (play)
  2. What are you doing? I __  _____ guitar (play)
  3. He _ ___ _____ today.(not work)
  4. __ you ____ Sandra this evening? (meet)
  5. Why _ she _____ that? (do)
  6. What __ you____ later? (do)
  7. What __ you______? It looks like coffee (drink)
  8. I ___ ___ ______ anymore! It is not fair (not play)
  9. He _ _____ on the big project for Google (work)
  10. ___ you______ in the chess tournament this weekend? (play)

Answers are in the comments 

If you need more help with verb tenses you can watch my course for free if you signup to Skillshare here

2 thoughts on “The Present Continuous tense – What you need to know”

  1. Answers to Exercise

    1. Peter is playing football (play)
    2. What are you doing? I am playing guitar (play)
    3. He is not working today. (not work)
    4. Are you meeting Sandra this evening? (meet)
    5. Why is she doing that? (do)
    6. What are you doing later? (do)
    7. What are you drinking? It looks like coffee (drink)
    8. I am not playing anymore! It is not fair (not play)
    9. He is working on the big project for Google (work)
    10. Are you playing in the chess tournament this weekend? (play)

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