Present Continuous Tense in detail

The present continuous tense, also commonly known as the Present Progressive tense, is one of the most common and used tenses we have in English. We use this tense in at least 25% of our conversations.

So, it becomes vital that we know how to use the Present Continuous tense the right way, and what situations we use it in.

What is the Present Continuous Tense in English?

Present Continuous tense definition: The Present Continuous tense is a tense form that is mainly used to talk about actions that are in progress at the time of speaking. Apart from this, it has some other usages as well. We will look at all the usages of the Present Continuous tense separately.

If I asked you to tell me what’s happening there right now, you would tell me everything using the present continuous tense.

Let me tell you what’s happening here right now:

  • My brother is talking to someone over the phone.
  • Some kids are playing football outside.
  • Jane, my cousin, is watching T.V.
  • My parents are drinking tea.
  • A guy is selling cotton candies.
  • Some ladies are buying something from a street vendor.
  • Jimmy, my dog, is drinking water.

All these things are happening right now as I write them for you. Now, let’s understand the Present Continuous tense structures before we get into more usages of this tense.

The Present Continuous tense structures/formulas

Before we look at the Present Continuous tense examples, let’s have an understanding of how different types of sentences look like in here.

Affirmative sentences

Subjectis/am/areV1 + ingobject/modifier
  • She is playing outside.
  • I am working on the next lesson.
  • Jon is playing games in his room.

Negative sentences

Subjectis/am/arenotV1 + ingobject/modifier
  • She is not playing outside.
  • I am not working on the next lesson.
  • Jon is not playing games in his room.

Interrogative sentences

Is/am/aresubjectV1 + ingobject/modifier?
  • Is she playing outside?
  • Am I working on the next lesson?
  • Is Jon playing games in his room?

Interrogative negative sentences

Is/am/aresubjectnotV1 + ingobject/modifier?
  • Is she not playing outside?
  • Am I not working on the next lesson?
  • Is Jon not playing games in his room?
VerbsSubjects used
ishe, she, it (singular noun names)
amonly ‘I’
areyou, we, they (plural noun names)
Verbs and the subjects used in the present continuous tense

Now, let’s look all the situations where we use the Present Continuous tense in English.

Different usages of the present continuous tense

Present continuous tense uses

1. To talk about ongoing actions.

This is the most common use of the Present Continuous in English. Here, we talk about actions that are going on at the time of speaking. You can also talk about actions that are not happening at the time of speaking or ask about the happening of actions.

Examples:

  • Jon is playing football outside.
  • Alok, my elder brother, is sitting next to me.
  • My father is laughing madly, probably at something my mother said.
  • Jyoti is making pasta for me in the kitchen.
  • Some boys are arguing outside.
  • I am not talking to anyone.
  • Nobody is looking at me.

2. To talk about actions planned for the near future.

We also use the Present Continuous tense to talk about actions that are planned for the near future.

Examples:

  • We are leaving for the party in the evening.
  • I am going to Lucknow next week.
  • Are you coming home this weekend?
  • They are throwing a party this month.
  • Is he going to join us tonight?
  • She is coming back tomorrow.

3. To talk about longer action that are in progress.

Sometimes, we use the Present Continuous tense to talk about actions that are in progress. You might not see these actions happening actively, but the state of the actions are on.

Examples:

  • I am working with a new startup now.
    (The action of working, physical action, might not be happening right now. I might be at my home sleeping. But the action of working there is on; I am still a part of it.)
  • Anne is writing a book about the human mind.
    (The action of writing a book is a long action. It might not be happening right now, but the state of the action is on.)

More examples:

  • My sister is studying BBA at SRCC college.
  • Jon and Max are living with me these days.
  • I am not teaching at my home anymore.
  • Are you still working on that project?
  • Is Rahul dating your sister?

4. To talk about current trends/ to talk about changes.

When there is a new trend or a change, we use the Present Continuous tense to talk about it.

Examples:

  • People are not doing conventional jobs these days.
  • Your English is getting better.
  • My business is growing rapidly.
  • Most people are leaning towards using public transport today.
  • No country is doing good in this corona time.
  • Education is getting expensive these days.

5. To talk about repeated actions.

The Present Continuous tense, sometimes, is also used to talk about actions that are repeated frequently. These actions are generally shocking or irritating.

Words such as ‘always’ and ‘constantly’ are used before the verb (BE) here.

Examples:

  • She is always arguing with her mother.
  • They are always playing outside
  • Jon is constantly whining about his job.

NOTE: it does not refer to an action that’s happening right now; it refers to actions that are frequently taking place. We can also use the Present indefinite tense to talk about this.

  • She always argues with her mother.
  • They always play outside
  • Jon constantly whines about his job.

Don’t use stative verbs in progressive tenses!

There are certain verbs, stative, with which we can’t use the Present Continuous tense or any other continuous tenses. Here are some of the most common stative verbs in English:

Emotions/desires

love, hate, like, adore, abhor, fear, dislike, envy, prefer, want, wish, regret, mind

Mental states

believe, consider, understand, know, forget, remember, mean, believe, doubt, suppose, agree

Senses

hear, see, smell, taste

Measurement

cost, weigh, contain, measure

Possession

have, own, belong, possess, include, owe

Examples:

  • I am loving you. ❌
  • I love you. ✔️
  • She is not understanding me. ❌
  • She does not understand me. ✔️
  • We are hating you for this. ❌
  • We hate you for this. ✔️
  • I am not believing in what you are saying. ❌
  • I don’t believe in what you are saying. ✔️
  • Are you remembering me? ❌
  • Do you remember me? ✔️
  • I am not hearing anything. ❌
  • I don’t hear anything. ✔️
  • How much is it costing? ❌
  • How much does it cost? ✔️

NOTE: some verbs can function as both stative and action verbs.

Verbs that can be both stative and action verbs

Here are some of the most common verbs that can be both stative and action:

1. Look

Action = the action of directing your eyes in a particular direction and see something
Stative = to seem

  • Where are you looking? (Action)
  • You don’t look fine today. (Stative)

2. See

Action = to date someone
Stative = to perceive by the eyes

  • Are you seeing anyone these days? (Action)
  • He sees everything. (Stative)

3. Smell

Action = the action of using your nose to find out the smell of an object
Stative = to refer to a state/quality of an object

  • Why are you smelling me? (Action)
  • You smell good. (Stative)

4. Have

Action = to eat, drink, take or experience
Stative = to own or possess

  • I am having lunch right now. (Action)
  • I am having a great time. (Action)
  • I have an amazing book. (Stative)

5. Taste

Action = the action of using your mouth to find out the taste of an object
Stative = the quality of state that an object has

  • He is just tasting the food. (Action)
  • This dish tastes amazing. (Stative)

6. Think

Action = to use your mind consciously to solve a problem, answer something, or to make a decision
Stative = to talk about your opinions

  • I am thinking about that situation right now. (Action)
  • I think going there is not a good idea. (Stative)

7. Weigh

Action = to do the action of measuring the weight of an object
Stative = to talk about the weigh that an object possesses

  • The shopkeeper is weighing the can of oil. (Action)
  • The can of oil weights 8 kg. (Stative)

8. Measure

Action = to do the action of measuring something of an object
Stative = to talk about the quality of an object

  • He is measuring the length of the bed. (Action)
  • The bed measures 5 feet 3 inches long. (Stative)

Conclusion: The Present Continuous tense in English is one of the most used tenses in English. We use it every day, in most of our conversations. So whenever you have to express what you or someone is doing right now, you need to employ this tense.

The Present Continuous tense Active and Passive voice

It is also important to know how to use the Present Continuous tense passive voice. Here are the structures of the Present Continuous tense in active and passive voice:

Active voice: Subject (the doer) + is/am/are + V1+ing + object (the receiver)

Passive voice: Object (the receiver) + is/am/are + being + V3 + by + subject (the doer)

Examples:

  • Active voice: I am writing an letter.
  • Passive voice: A letter is being written (by me).
  • Active voice: They are making a floating hotel here.
  • Passive voice: A floating hotel is being made here (by them).
  • Active voice: Jon is teaching kids right now.
  • Passive voice: Kids are being taught right now (by Jon).
  • Active voice: My mother is telling me something.
  • Passive voice: I am being told something (by my mother).

NOTE: we often don’t add the doer of the action in the passive voice as it’s not important to the meaning of the sentence. In passive voice, we just want to focus on the receiver of the action (object).

The Present Continuous tense in detail

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