The present continuous

The present continuous


As you watch the video, look at the examples of the present continuous. They are in red in the subtitles. Then read the conversation below to learn more. Finally, do the grammar exercises to check you understand, and can use, the present continuous.


Sophie is working in Cairo this week. Oliver, Alfie and Daisy are working hard for their end-of-year exams.


We use the present continuous (am/is/are + -ing) to talk about temporary things which have begun but haven't finished. They are often happening now, at this moment.

Here are some examples of things happening now.

I'm just uploading some photos to Facebook and I'm sending a message to Billie.
We're all riding camels and the sun's shining.
They're waiting for me to get off the phone!

I'm not sure what 'temporary' means. Can I say 'I'm learning to drive', even if I'm not having a driving lesson right now?

Yes, absolutely! You might not be having a driving lesson right at this moment, but it is temporary, so that's correct. We use the present continuous for longer situations like this too.

OK, I see what you mean. So that’s for things happening now, or round about now. What about the future? Can I use the present continuous for the future?

Yes, I’m glad you asked me that. We use the present continuous for future arrangements with other people.

At eight I’m meeting Lucas, just for a quick coffee.

What about questions and negatives?

For questions you just change round the subject and the verb to be. So, You are > Are you, then add the –ing form. Sometimes you need a question word first.

Are you working hard for the exam?
What are you doing?
Is anybody sitting here?

For negatives you add not after the verb to be. Don't forget to use a contraction if you're speaking.

You're not really studying at all, are you? (or You aren't really studying…)
They aren't using the computer room at the moment.
This program isn't working.

That's fine, but I suppose there are some spelling rules for –ing forms?

Yes, you're right. If a verb ends in e, you take off the e and add –ing

have - having          ride - riding

If a verb ends in a vowel + a consonant, the consonant is usually doubled before you add –ing.

swim - swimming           run - running

But be careful with verbs with more than two syllables where the stress isn't on the last syllable. With those you don't double the consonant.

visit - visiting          open - opening     

OK, but what about two-syllable verbs where the stress is on the last syllable, like begin

If the stress is on the last syllable, you do double the final consonant.

begin - beginning       

Right, the present continuous seems quite easy to me. I'm understanding it perfectly!

Whoops! Sorry, you can't say 'I'm understanding it'.

Why not? I'm talking about something happening right now.

Yes, but there is a group of verbs which are called state verbs which we use for states (not actions) and we don't usually use these in the continuous form.

want - need - like - love - hate - prefer - believe - think - know - realise - understand - recognise - suppose - be - exist - appear - look - seem - belong - have (for possession) -  own - feel - smell - taste

So these are verbs for talking about emotions, thinking, existing, appearing, possession and the senses.

Yes, excellent.

But wait a minute. What about, 'I'm thinking of coming with you tomorrow.' Or, 'I'm thinking about my girlfriend.'

Yes, they are correct. But the meaning of think there is 'having thoughts in your mind' or 'considering'. It's not the same as 'having an opinion' about something.

I think that song's brilliant.   (opinion)
She's thinking about studying archaeology.  (considering / wondering about)

OK, so there are some exceptions. Like, 'I'm loving it.'

No, sorry, that's not an exception, that's wrong!

It can't be wrong!

Well, OK, maybe it's a new usage. English does change. But don't use it in exams!


Total votes: 949


Language level: 



Are you good at doing lots of things at the same time? What are you doing now, apart from practising your English?


pierina's picture

When I'm playing basketball, I'm listening to music, and speaking to my friends. That's the only thing what I'm doing in the same time.

15 users have voted.
stephania1799's picture

Sometimes I can do two things at the same time but now I´m doing my homework, I´m listening to music and I´m looking for my little puppy because he needs to go pee right now

14 users have voted.
nandosc9's picture

Sometimes I can do two things at same time like now, I'm doing my English's homework and I'm listening the Ilonka's songs in youtube (my favorite singer :3)

14 users have voted.
mike95rob's picture

for me is good idea at doing lots of things at the same time and right now i´am doing my homeworks i'm listening to music i'm sending messages to my friends and i´m learning many words in English

15 users have voted.
Angielu's picture

No, i'm not good at doing lots of things at the same time, because i can't not concentrate on one particular thing. Right now i'm taking care of my 2 little cousins.

12 users have voted.
cicek's picture

Now i'm sending a comment and i am listening music at the same time :) And mom is yelling to me "go to bed now" :) im going :D
Hey Turkey :))

68 users have voted.
Prilia's picture

i'm doing my homework, sending text to my friend and eating at the same time. sometimes i'm watching tv and dinner at the same time. i often do listening the music and studying at the same time.

82 users have voted.
Taioor's picture

I'm quite good at doing lots of things at once.For example, preparing tea for my mom, checking my mail box, going to kitchen to get something to eat while i study etc. At the moment , I'm only studying English.

76 users have voted.
Nerminka's picture

I'm usually in such situations in fact, while I'm studing with my little sister I/m playing with my brother also, watch TV, if my fathers asks me todo something for ex, to bring tea I go for it also

100 users have voted.