Present Continuous Tense: When And How To Use It!

How do you talk about something that is happening right now? Do you say “I read this article” or “I am reading this article”? What about something that is happening around this time, but not necessarily at this exact moment? Do you say “She works on a project” or “She is working on a project”? If you are not sure, don’t worry. You are not alone. Many English learners struggle with the present continuous tense, also known as the present progressive tense. It can be confusing to know when and how to use it correctly, especially when other tenses sound similar, such as the present simple and the present perfect.

In this comprehensive guide, you will learn everything you need to know about the present continuous tense, including its definition, structure, and usage. By the end of this guide, you will be able to use the present continuous tense confidently and accurately in your daily conversations and writing.

What is the Present Continuous Tense?

The present continuous tense is a verb tense that describes actions happening at the moment of speaking or events occurring around the current time. This tense is formed by using the present tense of the verb “to be” (am, is, are) and adding the present participle (the -ing form) of the main verb.

Using the present continuous tense, you can describe anything happening around you, such as what you are doing now, what you are planning to do soon, or what is going on in the world.

For example: 

  • I am going.
  • They are working. 
  • She is watching TV. 
  • It is raining. 
  • Kids are sleeping. 

Present Continuous Tense Rule

To construct sentences in the Present Continuous Tense, we employ auxiliary verbs (is/are/am) along with the main verbs. This combination creates a structure that varies based on the subject:

Rules for Present Continuous Tense: 

SubjectAuxiliaryVerb Form
IAmV+ing
He/She/ItIsV+ing
We/You/TheyAreV+ing
Present Continuous Tense Rule – Auxiliary Verbs

Verb – The “ing” form

Points to remember while changing a verb to its -ing form

1. For most of the verbs, we just add “ing.” 

For example; 

  • Go – Going 
  • Play – Playing
  • Read – Reading
  • Work – Working 

2. If a verb ends with an “e,” drop the “e” and add “ing.”

For example; 

  • Bake – Baking 
  • Come – Coming
  • Make – Making
  • Tak– Taking 

3. If the last three letters of a verb are in the “Consonant Vowel Consonant” sequence, double the last letter and add “ing.”  

Note: Vowels in the English alphabet are a, e, i, o, and u, while the rest of the letters are called consonants.

Verb continuous form

For example; 

  • Clap – Clapping
  • Run – Running 
  • Stop – Stopping
  • Sit – Sitting

4. If a verb ends with “ie,” replace “ie” with “y” and add “ing.”

For example; 

  • Die – Dying
  • Lie – Lying
  • Tie – Tying

Present Continuous Tense Structure

We will be using four different structures for the present continuous tense for four types of sentences. Let’s see them one by one with example sentences.

Present Continuous Affirmative Sentence

Structure : Subject + is/are/am + V+ing + Object

Example Sentences:

  •  I am working right now.         
  •  He is working right now.
  •  She is working right now. 
  •  You are working right now.
  •  We are working right now.    
  •  They are working right now.
  •  It is working right now.
  •  Robert is working right now.
Present continuous tense structure and examples
Present Continuous Tense Structure with Examples!

Present Continuous Negative Sentence

Structure: Subject + is/are/am + not + V+ing + Object

Example Sentences:

  • I am not working right now.  
  • He is not working right now.
  • She is not working right now.  
  • You are not working right now.
  • We are not working right now.       
  • They are not working right now.
  • It is not working right now.
  • Robert is not working right now.

Present Continuous Question Sentence

Structure: Is/Are/Am + Subject + V+ing + Object?

Example Sentences:

  • Am I working right now?       
  • Is he working right now? 
  • Is she working right now? 
  • Are you working right now?
  • Are we working right now?
  • Are they working right now?
  • Is it working right now? 
  • Is Robert working right now? 

Present Continuous Interrogative Negative Sentence

Structure: Is/Are/Am + Subject + not + V+ing + Object?

Example Sentences:

  • Am I not working right now?  
  • Is he not working right now? 
  • Is she not working right now?  
  • Are you not working right now?
  • Are we not working right now?
  • Are they not working right now?
  • Is it not working right now? 
  • Is Robert not working right now? 

Use Of Present Continuous Tense

i) Something is happening at the time of speaking: We can describe an ongoing action or event using the present continuous tense.  

Examples:

  • He is taking a shower. 
  • My wife is cooking dinner. 
  • He is watching the news. 
  • Kids are playing in the park. 
  • They are waiting for us. 
  • We are leaving now.
  • I am waiting for the bus. 
  • We are getting late for the party. 
  • It is raining heavily outside. 

ii) Something is happening in the present time but not at the time of speaking: We can use it in a context when the work might not be going on at the time of speaking but is under process at present.

For example, “My brother is writing a non-fiction book”.

My brother might not be writing the book right now while I am talking about him. But, he is writing a book these days. It’s an ongoing action though it is not happening at the time of speaking.

Let’s see some examples of such kinds of situations:

  • I am working on my college assignment. 
  • We are learning English. 
  • He is working on a new project. 
  • She is reading romantic novels these days. 
  • My son is preparing for the entrance exam. 
  • We are decorating our house for Christmas.
  • They are making a new horror movie. 
  • XYZ Company is promoting their newly launched product. 

iii) Something is going to happen in the future: We can use the present continuous tense to talk about planned future actions or events. 

Examples:

  • He is coming tonight. 
  • We are meeting tomorrow at 10 am. 
  • I am going to Australia next week. 
  • They are leaving for Japan next month. 
  • His new book is coming this year. 
  • The new superhero movie is coming soon. 
  • She is moving to a new location soon. 
  • We are definitely going to her party tomorrow. 
  • I am visiting my parents this weekend. 
  • The flight is leaving in 30 minutes. 
  • Our train is coming in an hour. 

iv) Some kind of change or trend: We can also use the present continuous tense to talk about some kind of change happening in the present time or some sort of trend. 

Examples:

  • Petrol prices are increasing. 
  • Trains are running late due to the heavy fog. 
  • Pollution is becoming a huge problem nowadays. 
  • The world is dealing with the pandemic. 
  • The water level in the sea is going down. 
  • Her picture on social media is going viral. 
  • Their new video is going viral. 

Contraction or Sort Form in Present Continuous Tense

We often use contracted or short forms of words in day-to-day conversations as well as in writing. Here is how we use contractions in the present continuous tense: 

For Affirmative Sentences:

WordsContractionExample
I amI’mI’m cooking
You areYou’reYou’re lying
We areWe’reWe’re working
They areThey’reThey’re coming
He isHe’sHe’s sleeping
She isShe’sShe’s learning
It isIt’sIt’s raining

For Negative Sentences:

For negative present continuous tense sentences, there are two ways to use the contraction.

WordsContractionExample
I am notI’m notI’m not cooking.
You are notYou’re not / You aren’tYou’re not lying. / You aren’t lying.
We are notWe’re not / We aren’tWe’re not working. / We aren’t working.
They are notThey’re not / They aren’tThey’re not coming. / They aren’t coming.
He is notHe’s not / He isn’tHe’s not sleeping. / He isn’t sleeping.
She is notShe’s not / She isn’tShe’s not learning. / She isn’t learning.
It is notIt’s not / It isn’tIt’s not raining. / It isn’t raining.

For Interrogative/Question Sentences:

We cannot use contractions in interrogative/question sentences in the present continuous tense.

WordsContractionExample
Am IAm I cooking?
Are youAre you lying?
Are weAre we working?
Are theyAre they coming?
Is heIs he sleeping?
Is sheIs she learning?
Is itIs it raining?

For Interrogative Negative Sentences:

WordsContractionExample
Am I notAm I notAm I not cooking?
Are you notAren’t youAren’t you lying?
Are we notAren’t weAren’t we working?
Are they notAren’t theyAren’t they coming?
Is he notIsn’t heIsn’t he sleeping?
Is she notIsn’t sheIsn’t she learning?
Is it notIsn’t itIsn’t it raining?

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