Present Continuous

Forming the present continuous

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?

Examples: 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.

Functions of the present continuous

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Harry and Sally are always arguing! You're constantly complaining about your mother-in-law!
BE CAREFUL! Some verbs are not usually used in the continuous form

Verbs that are not usually 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.

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

Perception verbs (see, hear, feel, taste, smell) are often used with can: I can see... These verbs may be used in the continuous form but with a different meaning

  • This coat feels nice and warm. (your perception of the coat's qualities)
  • John's feeling much better now (his health is improving)
  • She has three dogs and a cat. (possession)
  • She's having supper. (She's eating)
  • I can see Anthony in the garden (perception)
  • I'm seeing Anthony later (We are planning to meet)