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?


kristina19's picture
kristina19 12 November, 2013 - 15:59

I really like this exercise
  But do anyone know where I can find Exercise THAT

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Natalija's picture
Natalija 3 May, 2013 - 19:15

Hi, Jonathan, thanks. The full sentence is: Julia's mother got married at/in the age of 17.

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Natalija's picture
Natalija 2 May, 2013 - 18:31

I have one question-Do we say "at the age of 17" or "in the age of 17"? I think it's at the age of 17, and I thought is true, but I've just done one English grammar test and in the key was the opposite. Perhaps is a mistake, it happens sometimes, but it's better for me to check.
Please, answer me as soon as possible, it's very important.

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Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
Jonathan - Coor... 3 May, 2013 - 04:02

Hi! It should be "at". You're right. ;-) I guess it's just a mistake in the answer key. Can you write the full sentence here, just to check?
Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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Natalija's picture
Natalija 26 April, 2013 - 19:12

It's common for my horoscope sign-Gemini, to do lots of things at the same time. I like to listen to music, do my homework, talk to my sister on phone and write on this site at the same time. Very confusing, isn't it? Even for myself. Sometimes it's hard to think about so many things at the same time, but somehow, I got used to. But I'll have to change that habit of mine, otherwise, I won't be able to do things right. I was OK till now, but it has become very hard, so I'll give up this habit as soon as possible. But let me tell this-it has some advantages too-at work is very good your ability to focus on versatile things at the same time, perhaps for projects or things like that. Everything has good and bad sides.

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marila2013's picture
marila2013 11 April, 2013 - 09:18

now i'm in your web site at the same time talking with friends and doing my home work..!!

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RehinaParker's picture
RehinaParker 5 March, 2013 - 13:55

I am doing my homeworks,talking with my fiends in Fb and listening music.............

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lekjana-ana's picture
lekjana-ana 23 February, 2013 - 06:17

i'm good at doing lot thing in the same time.......................get ready to go to the football game

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dajana-n's picture
dajana-n 20 February, 2013 - 17:20

Now in this moment I am learning english and I am so happy for this becouse ENGLISH is very important for me.I like very much this language.I am very happy that I am a part of this site.

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jenniferkim's picture
jenniferkim 25 December, 2012 - 08:00

I'm not really good at doing many things at the same time.
It's really confusing to do many thing in the same time.
When I do many things at once I make lots of mistakes.

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