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!


Language level: 


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


Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
Jonathan - Coor... 20 December, 2012 - 03:21

Hi AjkenaAlbania! I'm glad this was useful for your exam. Thanks for your comment!

To all our users and readers who have exams at this time of year, try your best ... and good luck! I'll have my fingers crossed for you!

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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marila2013's picture
marila2013 11 April, 2013 - 09:16

hi my should say help me a lot...
not help me a lot OF!!!!
because after OF you need a noun..!!!
okay good luck

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SharkTrainer's picture
SharkTrainer 4 December, 2012 - 08:15

Well, I'm afraid, I'm not the right person to do lots of things at the same time)))), but I love to!

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JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 3 December, 2012 - 08:52

Hi margaret75,
The exercises on this page are for you to practise using the present continuous. Always read the instructions carefully before you start and exercises.
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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rmolinosu's picture
rmolinosu 17 May, 2012 - 16:38

Thank you Jo!!!
Problem solved, it seemed to be a problem with explorer.
See you!!

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JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 17 May, 2012 - 19:49

Great! Thanks for letting us know that the problem is solved. :)

All the best, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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rmolinosu's picture
rmolinosu 16 May, 2012 - 11:14

Excuse me!! I can listen to the video but I can't see it...Do I need a special application???

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JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 16 May, 2012 - 13:23

Hi rmolinosu,
You don't need a special application. I've just checked the video and I can see it fine, so it's probably a problem with your computer. Can you see the other videos on the site OK? Have a look at the Video Zone. Let us know if you continue to have problems and we'll try to help you.
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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