Present Continuous Tense
The present continuous tense can be used to speak about actions which are in progress or unfinished at the time of speaking, or to speak about confirmed future arrangements.
Construction of the Present Continuous Tense
To create a positive statement using the present continuous tense, we use the auxilary verb 'be' with a verb present participle (gerund).
The construction is:
Subject + Be + Verb Gerund (the ...ing form)
I am studying English.
She is eating dinner with Steven.
Paul is reading a book.
We are waiting for a train.
When do we use the Present Continuous?
(1) We can use the present continuous to talk about actions that are happening or unfinished at the time of speaking.
I am studying English. (I am doing this now...)
They are watching TV. (They are doing this now...)
Paolo is cooking dinner.
The children are playing in the garden.
(2) We can use the present continuous to talk about a longer action which is in progress; however, we might not be doing it at this exact second.
I am reading a good book by Stephen King. (This is an action in progress, but I am not reading at the time of speaking.)
I'm studying Medicine at University. (This is an action in progress, but I am not studying at the time of speaking.)
(3) We can use the present continuous to talk about temporary states which are true at the time of speaking.
I am visiting some friends in Rome. (I am staying in Rome for a few days)
I am living with my sister until I find a new flat. (This is a temporary state)
Action and Non-Action verbs
We can only use 'Action Verbs' in the present continuous tense. 'Action Verbs' are verbs that describe things that we do.
Read, Write, Talk, Eat, Drive, Walk, Cook, Paint, Play, Teach, Make, Take
We do not use 'Non-Action Verbs' with the present continuous tense. 'Non-Action Verbs' are verbs that describe feelings, emotions, beliefs, possession, etc.
Like, Love, Want, Own, Believe, Remember, Forget, Seem, See, Taste, Hear
Usually, the present continuous indicates that you are 'in the middle of..." doing something. As a general test, when you want to talk about the present time, if you cannot replace the auxiliary 'be ...ing' with "..to be in the middle of..." the present continuous is probably not the correct tense to use.
Look at these examples:
'I am liking this pizza.' = 'I am in the middle of liking this pizza' and is not correct.
'To like' is a state verb, not an action verb, and does not happen. It cannot be continuous. You like (or you don't like) something. "I like this pizza" is correct.
'I am not believing you.' = 'I am not in the middle of believing you' and is not correct.
'To believe' is a state verb, not an action verb. It cannot be continuous. You believe (or you don't believe) somebody or something. "I don't believe you" is correct.
'Claudia is having a BMW' = 'Claudia is in the middle of having a BMW' and is not correct.
Here, 'to have' describes possession and is a non-action verb. The verb 'have' cannot be used with present continuous if it is used to speak about possession. You have (or do not have) something. "Claudia has a BMW " is correct.
However, 'To have' can also be used as a general action verb.
'Claudia is having a shower.' = 'Claudia is in the middle of having a shower.' and is correct.
Here, 'have' is used as a general verb and is an action verb. If 'have' is used as a general action verb it can be used with present continuous.
'She is having dinner.' and 'I am having a wash.' These are both correct because 'have' is used as a general verb.
'I am thinking you are right.' = 'I am in the middle of thinking you are right.' and is not correct.
'To think' is not an action verb, and does not describe an action. "I think you are right." is correct.
However, 'To think' can also mean 'To consider' and with this meaning it can be used in a continuous form.
For example, "I am thinking about buying a new car." is correct.
Here, 'thinking about' is an action in progress and means "I am considering buying..."
Negative forms are used to talk about things that are NOT happening at the time of speaking. To create a negative statement with the present continuous, add "not" after the auxiliary "to be". The form is: Subject + Be + Not + Verb Gerund.
He is not working very hard.
You are not driving fast enough.
The negative form can be abbreviated, as shown below:
I am not working = I'm not working (There is no other abbreviation possible)
You are not working = You're not working or You aren't working
He is not working = He's not working or He isn't working
Questions - Positive Forms
To make positive questions using the present continuous, we invert the subject and 'be'. The form is:
(Question word) + Be + Subject + Verb Gerund
Am I driving too fast?
Are you talking to me?
Where are you going?
What are you doing?
Questions - Negative questions
It is not common to ask negative questions in the first person in present continuous. To make negative questions using the present continuous we add 'not' to the question. The form is:
(Question word) + Be + Not + Subject + Verb Gerund
The forms 'be' + 'not' are abbreviated.
Isn't he working today?
Why isn't he working today?
Aren't you working today?
Why aren't you working today?
|Affirmative||Negative||Questions (positive)||Questions (negative)|
|My sister is cooking dinner||You aren't driving very well today||Are you watching the TV?||Aren't you feeling very well?|
|I'm staying at the Hilton Hotel||She isn't studying very hard||Are you falling asleep?||Why aren't you sleeping?|
|They're studying English in Milano||I'm not cooking again tonight!||What are you doing?||Why isn't Paolo working today?|
Note: The Present Continuous can also be used to talk about the future.