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Present Continuous Tense

1. Present continuous, form

The present continuous of any verb is composed of two parts – the present tense of the verb to be + the present participle of the main verb.

(The form of the present participle is: base+ing, e.g. talking, playing, moving, smiling)

Subject + to be + base+ing
she is talking
Subject + to be + not + base+ing
she is not (isn’t) talking
to be + subject + base+ing
is she talking?

Example: to go, present continuous

Affirmative Negative Interrogative
I am going I am not going Am I going?
You are going You aren’t going. Are you going?
He, she, it is going He, she, it isn’t going Is he, she, it going?
We are going We aren’t going Are we going?
You are going You aren’t going Are you going?
They are going They aren’t going Are they going?

Note: alternative negative contractions: I’m not going, you’re not going, he’s not going etc.

2. Present continuous, function

As with all tenses in English, the speaker’s attitude is as important as the time of the action or event. When someone uses the present continuous, they are thinking about something that is unfinished or incomplete.

The present continuous is used:

  • to describe an action that is going on at this moment e.g. You are using the Internet. You are studying English grammar.

  • to describe an action that is going on during this period of time or a trend, e.g.
    Are you still working for the same company? More and more people are becoming vegetarian.

  • to describe an action or event in the future, which has already been planned or prepared (See also ‘Ways of expressing the future) e.g. We’re going on holiday tomorrow. I’m meeting my boyfriend tonight. Are they visiting you next winter?
  • to describe a temporary event or situation, e.g. He usually plays the drums, but he’s playing bass guitar tonight. The weather forecast was good, but it’s raining at the moment.

  • with ‘always, forever, constantly’, to describe and emphasise a continuing series of repeated actions, e.g. Harry and Sally are always arguing! You’re forever complaining about your mother-in-law!

BE CAREFUL! Some verbs are not used in the continuous form – see below.

3. Verbs that are not normally used in the continuous form

The verbs in the list below are normally used in the simple form, because they refer to states, rather than actions or processes:

List of common verbs normally used in simple form:

Senses / Perception
feel*, hear, see*, smell, taste
assume, believe, consider, doubt, feel (= think), find (= consider), suppose, think*
Mental states
forget, imagine, know, mean, notice, recognise, remember, understand
Emotions / desires
envy, fear, dislike, hate, hope, like, love, mind, prefer, regret, want, wish
contain, cost, hold, measure, weigh
look (=resemble), seem, be (in most cases), have (when it means to possess)*


1. ‘Perception’ verbs (see, hear, feel, taste, smell) are often used with ‘can’: e.g. I can see…

2. * These verbs may be used in the continuous form but with a different meaning, compare:a. This coat feels nice and warm. (= your perception of the coat’s qualities)
b. John’s feeling much better now (= his health is improving)

a. She has three dogs and a cat. (=possession)
b. She’s having supper. (= She’s eating)

a. I can see Anthony in the garden (= perception)
b. I’m seeing Anthony later (= We are planning to meet)


  • I wish I was in Greece now.
  • She wants to see him now.
  • I don’t understand why he is shouting.
  • I feel we are making a mistake.
  • This glass holds half a litre.


1. Present continuous for the future, form
See notes on form in section on Present Continuous.

Subject + to be + base-ing
She is meeting

2. Future: Present continuous for the future, function
The present continuous is used to talk about arrangements for events at a time later than now.
There is a suggestion that more than one person is aware of the event, and that some preparation has already happened. e.g.

a. I’m meeting Jim at the airport = and both Jim and I have discussed this.
b. I am leaving tomorrow. = and I’ve already bought my train ticket.
c. We’re having a staff meeting next Monday = and all members of staff have been told about it.

More examples:

a. Is she seeing him tomorrow?
b. He isn’t working next week.
c. They aren’t leaving until the end of next year.
d. We are staying with friends when we get to Boston.

Note: in example (a), seeing is used in a continuous form because it means meeting.

BE CAREFUL! The simple present is used when a future event is part of a programme or time-table. Notice the difference between:

a. We’re having a staff meeting next Monday.
b. We have a staff meeting next Monday.(= we have a meeting every Monday, it’s on the time-table.)

Source : English4Today


June 13, 2008 - Posted by | Learn English - Tenses

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