The present continuous tense is formed using two parts: the present tense of the verb "to be" + the present participle of the main verb.
The present participle is formed by adding -ing to the base form of the verb (e.g., talking, playing, moving, smiling).
Examples: TO GO in the present continuous
Affirmative: I am going, You are going, He, she, it is going, We are going, You are going, They are going.
Negative: I am not going, You aren't going, He, she, it isn't going, We aren't going, You aren't going, They aren't going.
Interrogative: Am I going? Are you going? Is he, she, it going? Are we going? Are you going? Are they going?
Note: Alternative negative contractions: I'm not going, you're not going, he's not going, etc.
Functions of the present continuous
The present continuous tense is used:
- To describe an action that is happening at this moment: You are using the Internet. You are studying English grammar.
- To describe an action that is happening during this period of time or as a trend: Are you still working for the same company? More and more people are becoming vegetarian.
- To describe an action or event in the future that has already been planned or prepared: We're going on holiday tomorrow. I'm meeting my boyfriend tonight. Are they visiting you next winter?
- To describe a temporary event or situation: He usually plays the drums, but he's playing bass guitar tonight. The weather forecast was good, but it's raining at the moment.
- With "always, forever, constantly" to describe and emphasize a continuing series of repeated actions: Harry and Sally are always arguing! You're constantly complaining about your mother-in-law!
Be careful: Some verbs are not usually used in the continuous form.
Verbs that are not usually used in the continuous form:
- Senses / perception: to feel*, to hear, to see*, to smell, to taste
- Opinion: to assume, to believe, to consider, to doubt, to feel (= to think), to find (= to consider), to suppose, to think*
- Mental states: to forget, to imagine, to know, to mean, to notice, to recognise, to remember, to understand
- Emotions / desires: to envy, to fear, to dislike, to hate, to hope, to like, to love, to mind, to prefer, to regret, to want, to wish
- Measurement: to contain, to cost, to hold, to measure, to weigh
- Others: to look (=resemble), to seem, to be (in most cases), to have (when it means "to possess")*
Perception verbs (see, hear, feel, taste, smell) are often used with "can":
- I can see... (perception)
- This coat feels nice and warm. (your perception of the coat's qualities)
- John's feeling much better now. (his health is improving)
- She has three dogs and a cat. (possession)
- She's having supper. (She's eating)
- I'm seeing Anthony later. (We are planning to meet)