This tense is mostly used to talk about now but, confusingly, it can also be used to talk about the future. Sometimes it is called the present progressive. As the two names suggest, it is used to describe things which continue for some time or are in progress. Keep reading to learn more.
present continuous = am / are / is + ___ing
Be: I am being, you / we / they are being, he / she / it is being
(Or: I’m being, you’re being, he’s being, she’s being, it’s being, we’re being, they’re being)
Work: I am working, you / we / they are working, he / she / it is working
Take: I am taking, you / we / they are taking, he / she / it is taking
Be: I am not being, you / we / they are not being, he / she / it is not being
(I’m not being, you / we / they aren’t being, he / she / it isn’t being)
Work: I am not working, you / we / they are not working, he / she / it is not working
Take: I am not taking, you / we / they are not taking, he / she / it is not taking
Be: Am I being? Are you / we / they being? Is he / she / it being?
Work: Am I working? Are you / we / they working? Is he / she / it working?
Take: Am I taking? Are you / we / they taking? Is he / she / it taking?
1. Unfinished actions happening now:
I'm waiting for the bus.
He can’t come to the phone - he’s having a shower.
2. Unfinished actions happening around now but not at this moment:
I’m reading “The Lord of the Rings”. I’m about halfway through.
I’m watching “Friends” on Netflix.
(These sentences mean I’m not reading or watching right now but over a period of days or weeks around now. I’m in the middle of the book or series.)
3. Temporary situations:
I'm living in London at the moment.
She’s working in a different office this week.
4. To describe trends:
We're eating more and more sugar.
The number of sales is increasing.
5. Annoying habits (with "always"):
You're always interrupting me!
My mother is always criticising my hair!
6. Future arrangements:
I'm seeing the doctor at 4 tomorrow.
We’re meeting outside the cinema at 6.30.
1. I studying English. ❌
I’m studying English. ✔️
Don’t forget to include am / are / is. You can’t use the -ing form alone.
2. He don’t working today. ❌
He isn’t working today. ✔️
Only use “don’t” and “doesn’t” with the present simple, not continuous.
3. Do you watching TV? ❌
Are you watching TV? ✔️
This is similar to number 2. Only use “do” and “does” in present simple questions.
4. I’m going to the gym three times a week. ❌
I go to the gym three times a week. ✔️
As I said before, we use present simple and not present continuous for habits. However, you could use present continuous if the habit is temporary. For example: I usually go to the gym once a week but I’m going three times at the moment because I have more free time.
5. He isn’t understanding phrasal verbs. ❌
He doesn’t understand phrasal verbs. ✔️
There are a number of verbs which describe states, not actions, and these are not usually used in continuous tenses. For example: understand, love, know, believe. More on this in a later post.
Verbs ending in -e:
If a verb ends in -e, drop the -e before adding -ing. For example:
dance → dancing
take → taking
Except verbs ending in -ee, -oe or -ye:
agree → agreeing
canoe → canoeing
dye → dyeing
Double the consonant:
If a one-syllable verb has one vowel and one consonant at the end, we double the consonant. This only works if the vowel is short. For example:
swim → swimming
shop → shopping
Don’t double if the verb ends in -w or -x (snow → snowing, fix → fixing)
or if there are two vowels (sleep → sleeping)
or if there are two consonants (help → helping)
If there are two syllables it usually depends on the word stress.
If the stress is on the first syllable, don’t double the consonant.
offer → offering
listen → listening
If the stress is on the second syllable, double the consonant:
begin → beginning
regret → regretting
There are some exceptions, of course:
In British English, we write “travelling” but Americans write “traveling”. Most other verbs ending in -l work the same way.
“Focusing” and “focussing” are both possible, although the first spelling is more common.
kidnap → kidnapping
Verbs that end in -c: panic → panicking
Don’t change the y:
play → playing
study → studying (NOT studing)
Change -ie to -y:
There are not many of these.
die → dying
tie → tying
lie → lying
Wondering what to study next? You might like to try the present perfect.
If you would like more lessons and tips for how to learn English, click the button below and sign up for my newsletters:
About the blog