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Present continuous

Level: beginner

The present continuous is made from the present tense of the verb be and the –ing form of a verb:

I am working
You are playing
He is talking
She is living
It is eating
We are staying
They are sleeping

We use the present continuous to talk about:

  • activities at the moment of speaking:

I'm just leaving work. I'll be home in an hour.
Please be quiet. The children are sleeping.

Present continuous 1

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Present continuous 2

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  • future plans or arrangements:

Mary is going to a new school next term.
What are you doing next week?

Present continuous 3

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Present continuous 4

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Present continuous questions

We make questions by putting am, is or are in front of the subject:

Are you listening?
Are they coming to your party?
When is she going home?
What am I doing here?

Present continuous questions 1

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Present continuous questions 2

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Present continuous negatives

We make negatives by putting not (or n't) after am, is or are:

I'm not doing that.
You aren't listening.
(or You're not listening.)
They aren't coming to the party. (or They're not coming to the party.)
She isn't going home until Monday. (or She's not going home until Monday.)

Present continuous negatives 1

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Present continuous negatives 2

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Stative verbs

We do not normally use the continuous with stative verbs. Stative verbs include:

  • verbs of thinking and feeling:
believe
dislike
know
like
love
hate
prefer
realise
recognise
remember
suppose
think
(= believe)
understand
want
wish

 
  • verbs of the senses:
appear
feel
look
seem
smell
sound
taste
 
  • others:
agree
be
belong
disagree
need
owe
own
possess

We normally use the simple instead:

I understand you. (NOT I am understanding you.)
This cake tastes wonderful. (NOT This cake is tasting wonderful.)

Level: intermediate

We also use the present continuous to talk about:

  • something which is happening before and after a specific time:

At eight o'clock we are usually having breakfast.
When I get home the children are doing their homework.

  • something which we think is temporary:

Michael is at university. He's studying history.
I'm working in London for the next two weeks.

  • something which is new and contrasts with a previous state:

These days most people are using email instead of writing letters.
What sort of clothes are teenagers wearing nowadays?
What sort of music are they listening to?

  • something which is changing, growing or developing:

The children are growing up quickly.
The climate is changing rapidly.
Your English is improving.

  • something which happens again and again:

It's always raining in London.
They are always arguing.
George is great. He's always laughing.

Note that we normally use always with this use.
 

Present continuous 5

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Level: advanced

We can use the present continuous to talk about the past when we are:

  • telling a story:

The other day I'm just walking down the street when suddenly this man comes up to me and asks me to lend him some money. Well, he's carrying a big stick and he looks a bit dangerous, so I'm wondering what to do …

  • summarising a book, film or play:

Harry Potter is a pupil at Hogwarts school. One day when he is playing Quidditch he sees a strange object in the sky. He wonders what is happening

Basic level

Comments

Also,
in the "future plans or arrangements":
Mary is going to a new school next term.
since it is future plans, why aren't the sentence is "Mary will be going to a new school next term."(future continuous tense)
or
What are you doing next week?
what will you be doing next week? (future continuous tense)

Hello cherly chia mei ying

The two sentences in the future continuous that you propose could also be correct. It depends on how the speaker sees the future event. We often use the future continuous when we are imagining a particular point in time or a situation in the future, but we can also refer to that same time with a form like 'be going to'. 

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir! I have two confusion here. Would like to seek for you opinions ^^

1. The other day I'm just walking down the street when suddenly this man (came)comes up to me and (asked)asks me to lend him some money. Well, he's carrying a big stick and he looks a bit dangerous, so I'm(have been)wondering what to do …
since it was saying about something in the past, why is the word i bracket is not past tense or the last one as present perfect continuous?

2. They are eating at Scott’s favorite restaurant today, Polly’s Pancake Diner. (some sentences i found online)
- Why aren't "they are eating at.." is :
"they have been eating at..." (as it sound like something already happened
on today before this words spoken)

Hello cherly chia mei ying

Regarding your first question, as it says at the end of the explanation above, you can use present tenses to speak about the past, particularly when telling a story. This can have the effect of making the story more present.

Regarding your second question, you could also say that. The present continuous form would be better in, for example, a news report in which the reporter is on the scene at the time the report is made.

As you can see, verb tenses can be used in a variety of ways!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Good afternoon Sir, I want to ask He and she is plucking flowers or are pluking flowers which one is correct ? Next People is smoking or are smoking nowadays and another one Children are running fast or is running fast . kindly answer me I will be grateful . please sir

Hello Shilpa Dutta,

The correct spelling is plucking, but I think for flowers a better verb is picking.

Both people and children are plural nouns so you need to say are smoking and are running.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone. I would like to know the difference bettewen

- Is she living in London?
- Does she lives in London?

And the stative verbs in present continuous
Saying: "She is understanding everything" is correct? or we can just say "she is understand everything"

Hello Pats,

The correct sentences would be as follows:

Is she living in London?

Does she live in London? [not lives]

 

The difference is how the speaker sees the situation. The first sentence (present continuous) sees living as a temporary thing which will change. You might ask this if a person is studying in a city but will at some point leave, or is working on a short-term contract. The second sentence (present simple) sees living as a permanant thing. You might ask this if you think London is the person's home.

 

Stative verbs are usually not used with continuous forms. The correct form here is understands.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello
"She is over-sensitive, often getting offended for seemingly no reason."
I read this sentence in a book and now I wanna understand "geting" is present continuous here or not? if yes or no, please tell me the reason.

thanks a lot for your response

Hello atya,

Getting here is a present participle. We can use these to join sentences which have the same subject:

She is over-sensitive.

She often gets offended for seemingly no reason.

> She is over-sensitive, often getting offended for seemingly no reason.

 

You can read more about this use of participles on this page:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/participle-clauses

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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