Present Continuous Tense

Complete Grammar Guide: Definition, Examples, Uses, Forms, Vocabulary and Exercises.

The present continuous tense, also known as present progressive, is the form of tense that describes ongoing actions or actions happening at the current moment. Thus, the activities described by the present continuous are unfinished, incomplete actions.

This article provides a complete guide on simple present tense under the following topics.

Definition

Examples of present continuous tense

Uses of present continuous tense

How to form/structure present continuous tense

Useful contractions

Useful vocabulary

Spelling rules to form the present participle

Present continuous tense exercise

Definition of Present Continuous Tense

Present continuous refers to actions that are happening at the exact moment that the speaker is speaking.

Present continuous is formed using the ‘to be’ form (is, are, am) followed by the present participle (base form of the verb + ing).

Sometimes the action does not need to happen at the moment of speaking. We can use the present continuous tense to describe actions that belong to an expanded period, including the current moment or near future. At times it describes future events, actions, or expectations. We explain such different uses under the uses of present continuous tense.

Present Continuous Tense Examples

  1. Mary is baking a cake.
  2. He is not doing his homework.
  3. The machine is not working properly.
  4. Aren’t you studying for the exam?
  5. I’m getting married this year.
  6. He is having breakfast.
  7. Judy is ignoring all her problems.
  8. Alan is not attending the next meeting.
  9. Police are searching the house right now.
  10. I am writing a new script these days.

Uses of Present Continuous Tense

1. As we discussed so far, the present continuous tense is used to speak of actions that are happening right now.

She is preparing dinner.

I am doing the dishes.

The cat is chasing a bird.

2. The present continuous tense is not only used to speak about the actions that are happening right now or at the exact moment of speaking. We also use the present continuous tense to describe actions that occur during an extended period, including the past, future, and present moment.

I am reading the Robert Langdon series these days.

He is studying medicine at Harvard.

In these sentences, the actions relate to the past, present, and future. The doer of the action may do something other than the action at the moment of speaking. But the doer has started the action at some point in the past, doing now and continuing until some point in the future.

3. Present continuous tense is sometimes used to describe actions/plans that happen in the near future.

She is not attending the ceremony tomorrow.

I’m visiting my cousin this weekend.

What are you doing in the evening?

We’re moving to a new house next week.

4. We use the present continuous to make predictions, assumptions, or polite excuses in unseen situations.

Are you free to have a chat, or am I bothering you?

Do study well. I hope you’re not wasting your time on useless matters.

I hope she is not treating others like she did to me.  

5. We use the present continuous tense to make complaints about frequent actions.

Here the tense is used to put stress/emphasize the action and express annoyance.

Your dog is continuously barking loudly at night.

He is always calling me to get his homework done.

6. To describe temporary actions, temporary habits, or changes of usual/habitual actions.

My wife doesn’t let me cook. But today I’m preparing the food as she’s sick.

He is heartbroken. He is drinking a lot these days.

7. To indicate repeated actions

The repeated actions described using present continuous only happen occasionally, like in the simple present tense. They happen very frequently.

He is constantly biting his nails.

She is constantly visiting her aunt.

How to Form the Present Continuous Tense?

What is a present participle?

Present participle = base form of the verb + ing

The present participle is made of combining the base form of the verb and the suffix -ing. For example, the present participle of the verb eat is eating (eat + ing).

The basic formula of present continuous tense is as follows:

Subject + is/are/am + present participle

In addition to this basic formula, we can use present continuous tense in 5 basic forms. The structure in all these forms apply the same way to all first-person, second-person, and third-person singular and plural nouns and pronouns.

1. Affirmative form or positive form

2. Negative form

3. Interrogative form

4. Negative interrogative form

5. Passive form

1. Affirmative form

Subject + am/is/are + present participle + rest of the sentence

Examples

I am reading a magazine.

She is cleaning the house.

They are playing football.

2. Negative form

Subject + am/is/are + not + present participle + rest of the sentence

Examples

I am not reading a magazine.

She is not listening to me.

They are not playing football.

3. Interrogative form

  • Close-ended questions

Close-ended questions are questions that get yes or no answers.

am/is/are + subject + present participle + rest of the sentence

Examples

Am I talking too much?

Is she cleaning the house?

Are they playing football?

  • Tag questions (Negative statement + Positive tag)

He/she/it + is not + present participle + rest of the question. Is + he/she/it?

You/we/they + are not + present participle + rest of the question. Are + you/we/they?

Examples

She’s not skipping meals. Is she?

You are not skipping meals. Are you?

They are not following the instructions. Are they?

He is not studying well. Is he?

  • Wh-questions

Examples

Who is singing out there?

Why aren’t you coming to the party?

When are you going home?

What are they carrying?

Whose pants are you wearing?

To whom is she speaking?

How is she cleaning the house?

4.Negative interrogative

  • Close-ended questions

am/ is/are + subject + not + present participle + rest of the sentence

or,

negative contraction + subject + present participle + rest of the sentence

Examples

Is she not going to school?

Aren’t I speaking loud enough?

  • Tag questions (Positive statement + Negative tag)

He/she/it + is + present participle + rest of the sentence. Isn’t (Negative contraction) + he/she/it?

You/we/they + are + present participle + rest of the sentence. Aren’t (Negative contraction) + you/we/they?

 Examples

      He is driving too fast. Isn’t he?

      She is worrying too much. Isn’t she?

      They are strictly monitoring the work. Aren’t they?

5. Passive form

Subject + is/are/am + being + past participle + rest of the sentence

Examples

Present continuous active voice: Patrick is singing a love song.

Present continuous passive voice: A love song is being sung by Patrick.

         She is being strongly advised by the principal at the office now.

         The app is being programmed by a set of experienced software engineers.

Note: We cannot use every verb to form the present participle verb form. Some verbs are suitable to use in the simple present but not in the present continuous.

I’m believing in hard work. ( × )

I’m understanding all theories of this science lesson. ( × )

The box is containing a collection of toys. ( × )

My daughter is preferring vanilla flavored ice cream. ( × )

I’m wanting to go to the bathroom. ( × )

All these sentences sound odd and unusual. Instead, the following sentences are the correct use of such verbs.

I believe in hard work. ( √ )

I understand all theories of this science lesson. ( √ )

The box contains a collection of toys. ( √ )

My daughter prefers vanilla-flavored ice cream. ( √ )

I want to go to the bathroom. ( √ )

Hence, it is important to know what kinds of verbs are not suitable to use in the present continuous tense.

When forming the present participle, there are two types of verbs to consider. Those are  dynamic verbs and stative verbs.

Dynamic verbs: these are the verbs that indicate physical activities. The actions have a beginning and end. E.g., eat, cry, laugh.

Stative verbs: these verbs indicate emotions and states. The actions are not physically involved. These verbs do not have beginnings or endings. They remain the same. E.g., like, hate, love

Some common groups of stative verbs:

  • Verbs that define a state.

contains, consist, need, matter, cost

  • Emotions

love, hate, sad, happy, confident, angry

  • Psychological verbs or verbs associated with mental processes.

 believe, understand, doubt, mean, recall, remember, trust, agree, remind, imagine, think, know, prefer

  • Senses

 feel, hear, smell, seem, sound, see, notice, taste

  • Possession

Belong, own, have, possess

Useful Contractions

Contractions are short forms of two words. In a contraction, two words are gathered into one word using an apostrophe.

Following are the contractions used in the present continuous tense.

is not = isn’t

are not = aren’t

he is/she is/it is = he’s/she’s/it’s

he is not/she is not/it is not = he’s not/she’s not/it’s not

he is not/she is not/it is not = he isn’t/she isn’t/ it isn’t

I am not = I’m not

Am not/are not/is not = ain’t (informal speech)

you/we/they are = you’re/we’re/they’re

you are not/we are not/they are not = you’re not/we’re not/they’re not, or you aren’t/we aren’t/they aren’t

Useful Vocabulary

To be verbs: is, are, am

Present participle: base form of verb + ing

Frequency adverbs: always, frequently, seldom, constantly, often, continually

Time expressions: Still, yet, these days, now, at the moment, by this time, today, this week/month/year

Spelling Rules to Form the Present Participle:

We use present participle in all the following progressive/continuous tenses.

Present continuous tense.

Present perfect continuous tense.

Past continuous tense.

Past perfect continuous tense.

Future continuous tense.

Future continuous tense.

To form the present participle, we have to add the suffix -ing to the base form of the verb.

Example: sink  → sinking

                show  → showing

                smell  → smelling

                           fly  → flying

In some cases, spelling changes occur depending on the last letters of the verb.

  • Doubling up the final consonant.

Example: win  → winning

                cut  → cutting

                dig  → digging

                           bud  → budding

                           get  → getting

  • Verbs end with ‘-ie’

Replace the -ie with y, then add -ing.

Example: lie  → lying

                die  → dying

                tie  → tying

                vie  → vying

  • Verbs end with ‘-e’

Replace the -e directly with -ing.

Example: rise  → rising

                hide  → hiding

                come  → coming

                take  → taking

                freeze  → freezing