Using the Present Continuous Tense in English

The present continuous verb tense indicates that an action or condition is happening now, frequently, and may continue into the future.


1. Forming the Present Continuous Tense

The present continuous tense is formed from the present tense of the verb "be" and the present participle (-ing form) of a verb:

Affirmative: Subject + to be + V-ing

  • She is working.

Negative: Subject + to be + not + V-ing

  • She is not (isn't) working.

Interrogative: To be + subject + V-ing?

  • Is she working?

2. When do we use the Present Continuous tense

The present continuous is used in several instances:

To describe something which is happening at the exact moment of speech:

  • Jim is watching television at the moment.

To describe an action that is taking place now but not at the exact moment of speech:

  • He is working in Dubai.

To describe an event planned in the future:

  • I'm taking my French class on Tuesday.

With always but meaning often (used to emphasize the frequency of an action in a humorous or hyperbolic way):

  • My mother is always making me go to school!
  • She is always playing with that doll!

To describe an action that is taking place now and is subject to interruption:

  • Ellen cannot come to the phone since she is sleeping.

3. Spelling of verbs in the Present Continuous tense

Most verbs add –ing:

  • eat - eating
  • speak - speaking
  • cook - cooking
  • start - starting
  • do - doing
  • stay - staying
  • fix - fixing

Most verbs ended with -y, add –ing:

  • buy - buying
  • enjoy - enjoying
  • play - playing
  • say - saying
  • try - trying

Verbs that ended with -e, drop the -e and add –ing:

  • make - making
  • write - writing
  • drive - driving
  • take - taking
  • have - having
  • shave - shaving
  • share - sharing
  • shake - shaking

Verbs that ended with -ee, add –ing:

  • see - seeing
  • agree - agreeing

Verbs ended with a consonant preceded by a vowel, double the consonant and add -ing:

  • swim - swimming
  • run - running
  • get - getting
  • stop - stopping
  • sit - sitting
  • put - putting
  • skip - skipping
  • travel - travelling
  • regret - regretting

Do not double the letter if the words ends in two consonants:

  • help - helping
  • talk - talking
  • work - working

Two-syllable verbs: the last consonant is doubled when the last syllable is stressed:

  • forget - forgetting
  • upset - upsetting
  • prefer - preferring

Do not double the letter if the word has two or more syllables and the last part is not stressed:

  • visit (first part is stressed) - visiting
  • benefit (first part is stressed) - benefiting

Do not double the letter if the word ends in -y or –w:

  • buy - buying
  • enjoy - enjoying
  • snow - snowing

Verbs ended with -ie, change -ie to -y, add –ing:

  • lie - lying
  • die - dying

Verbs ended with -c, change -c to –ck:

  • picnic - picnicking

Excepting:

  • age - ageing
  • dye - dyeing
  • singe - singeing
  • budget - budgeting
  • enter - entering

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Using the Present Continuous Tense in English

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