Present Continuous Tense: Usage & Examples

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)
Grammar Lab

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