Present continuous tense


Present continuous tense – also called present progressive or present definite– represents one of the basic verb forms in English. It is used to describe actions and situations that are happening right now (i.e. at the moment of speech). The speaker is focused on detailed description of the situation or on the process (progress) of the activity (hence the name present progressive). If we state simple facts we use present simple, which is described here.

Let’s take a look at present continuous in more detail:
You will find out how to form positive and negative sentences (Affirmatives and Negatives) and questions (Interrogatives) in present continuous. You will learn more details about the situations when the present continuous is used. You will see a lot of examples, overviews, useful tips and common mistakes, as well as comparisons with other tenses, e.g. present simple, present perfect or future simple.

Remember to test and practice your knowledge in our free tests below – we have prepared a lot of them for you.


We use present continuous to express:

1. actions that are happening right now (at the moment of speech).

• Please, call me later, I am driving.
• Look out of the window, it’s raining.

2. actions happening around now but not necessarily at the moment of speech, usually long-term and repeated ones.

• He is working on an interesting project.
• They want to Britain, so they are learning English.

3. temporary / exceptional actions.

• Mr Jones is a teacher here, but today he is having a day off.
• Sarah is a waiter, she is only helping out in the kitchen now.
• He is a trustworthy person but he is clearly lying now.

4. fixed future arrangements.

• When are you leaving for vacation?
• I am not coming to the party tonight.


a/ Affirmative:
Present continuous has two parts: the verb to be in present tense + present participle of the main verb ( “-ing” form).

Present participle = infinitive + “ing” at the end: to eat – > eating; to wait -> waiting; to sleep – > sleeping
• The baby is sleeping.
• We are having a good time.

b/ Negative:
Negative sentences are formed by putting the verb to be into negative:
• I am not talking to you!
• We are not going home yet.

“I amn’t….” in the first person of singular is incorrect. Only the following forms exist: “I am not…..” / “I’m not….”

Common mistake
Incorrect: I amn’t joking.Correct: I am not joking / I’m not joking.

c/ Interrogative (question):
To ask a question in present continuous, the verb order has to be changed = the verb to be comes before the personal pronoun:
• What is this man looking at?
• Why are you laughing?

A lot of beginners make the mistake of mixing auxiliary verbs for the present simple and present continuous:

Common mistake
Incorrect: Do you playing?Correct: Are you playing? (present continuous) / Do you play? (present simple)

Overview: Present continuous forms – Affirmative, Negative and Interrogative

Let’s have a brief overview of present continuous forms in the table below. The verb to work will serve as an example.

I am working I ’m not working Am I working?
You are working You aren’t working Are you working?
He/she/it is working He/she/it isn’t working Is he/she/it working?
We are working We aren’t working Are we working?
You are working You aren’t working Are you working?
They are working They aren’t working Are they working?

PRACTICE Present Continuous form
PRACTICE Present Continuous use / expressing the present / expressing the future

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