The present continuous tense is used for actions happening now or for an action that is unfinished. This tense is also used when the action is temporary.
The present continuous tense is formed with the subject plus the present particle form (-ing) of the main verb and the present continuous tense of the verb to be: am, is, are.
One simple example of this tense is: He is swimming. "He" is the subject, "is" is the present tense of the verb to be and "swimming" is the present participle verb form. Some other forms of this verb tense are:
- I am singing at church today.
- The boys are playing ball after school.
The following are basic examples of the present continuous tense. The verb tense in each sentence is underlined.
- She is crying.
- He is talking to his friend.
- The baby is sleeping in his crib.
- We are visiting the museum in the afternoon.
Present continuous tense can be used to express something happening right now or to express something that is not happening right now. Examples of this use include:
- He is not standing.
- Anthony is sitting in the chair.
- You are not watching the movie.
- Rose is reading a book.
Present continuous tense can also be used to show that something will or will not happen in the near future. Examples of this use include:
- She is not going to the game tonight.
- He is meeting his friends after school.
- Are you visiting your cousin this weekend?
- I am not going to the meeting after work.
- Is John playing football today?
Present continuous tense can be used for actions that are still happening at the time of speaking. Examples of this use include:
- Marc is making pizza now.
- They are eating lunch right now.
- Frances is talking on the phone at the moment.
Present continuous tense can be used in questions as well. Here are some more examples of this use:
- Is she laughing?
- Are they listening to the teacher?
- Is the baby drinking his bottle?
- Are you going?
In addition to the above, the present continuous tense can be used to describe actions that are being repeated. Words like always, constantly and forever are used along with the verb. Examples of this use include:
- Jack and Jill are always fighting.
- She is constantly complaining about her sister.
- Her mother is forever misplacing her keys.
Present continuous tense can be used when speaking about current trends. Examples of this use include:
- Shopping online is growing in popularity nowadays.
- The stocks are dropping constantly due to the economy.
- Today, most people are using text messages instead of the phone.
Another use of this tense is when talking about a planned event in the future. Examples of this use include:
- We are leaving for the beach tomorrow morning.
- The kids are arriving at six o'clock.
- She is speaking at the conference this evening.
There are certain verbs that cannot be used in the present continuous tense. The following verbs are non-continuous:
- Communication: agree, promise, surprise
- Feelings: like, love, hate
- Senses: hear, see, smell, taste
- Thinking: believe, know, understand
As you can see the present continuous tense is most often used in English grammar to describe a continuing action, something that in unfinished. This tense is also important since it is a simple sentence structure that can show actions or events that are happening right now, in the planned future, or sometimes even in the past.