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Understanding Present Continuous Tense (Rules + Examples)

Among the many verb tenses, present continuous is one of the most commonly used tenses in English. It is used in daily conversations by people at large. Here is a brief breakdown of the present continuous. The article details the definition, different types of tenses, uses of present continuous tense, the structure of present continuous, and examples.

What Is Present Continuous Tense?

The present continuous, also known as the present progressive tense, refers to actions that are taking place now, these days, or nowadays. Here, the action hasn’t been completed yet. It is continuing and will do so for a little while.

Sentence example.
Sentence example.

For example: She is cleaning the house. Here, the person is cleaning the house right now and will continue to do so for a while. The action hasn’t ended yet.

Another example: The dog is barking at the birds. Here the action (barking) is taking place right now. In other words, it is a temporary action that will end soon.

I am going.I am not going.Am I going?
You are going.You aren’t going.Are you going?
He is going.He isn’t going.Is he going?
We are going.We aren’t going.Are we going?

What are the other tenses?

In English, there are three basic tenses. Each tense is further divided into four tenses. In total, the list comes to twelve verb tenses, and present continuous is one among them. Here is a full list of all the twelve tenses.

The table below explains each of these tenses with examples:

Present simpleHelps to describe habits, facts, actions, and truth that are not affected by timeIst form of verb + s/esHe loves pizza.
Past simpleHelps to describe events that have happened in the pastIInd form of the verbShe wore a beautiful dress for the party.
Future simpleHelps to describe events that will happen in the futureWill/ shall + Ist form He will go to New York tomorrow.
Present perfectHelps to describe the relevance of past events in the present momentHas/ have + IIIrd form of the verbhave learned to ride a bike.
Past perfectHelps to describe events that happened prior to other events in the pastHad + IIIrd form of the verbShe had finished the paper before leaving the hall.
Future perfectHelps to describe events that will be completed between now and a specific point in the futureWill/ have + IIIrd form of the verbShe will have finished the book by tomorrow.
Present continuousHelps to describe ongoing actionsIs/ am/ are + Ist form + ing“She is reading a book.
Past continuousHelps to describe ongoing events of the past, mostly in relation to another eventWas/ were + Ist form + ingHe was driving to work when the accident happened. 
Future continuousHelps to describe future events that will/are expected to continue for a period of timeWill be + Ist form + ingwill be going to meet my grandparents tomorrow.
Present perfect continuousHelps to describe events that started in the past and will continue into the present Has/ have been + Ist form + ingShe has been writing a book for the past one year.
Past perfect continuousHelps to describe events that begancontinued, and ended in the pastHad been + Ist form + inghad been working in this company for ten years when I got the promotion. 
Future perfect continuousHelps to describe events that began in the past but will continue until a point in the futureWill/ shall have been + Ist form + ingwill have been doing business with her for one year.

While these are all different types of tenses, the present simple, the past simple and the present perfect are the most commonly used. 

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How Is Present Continuous Different From Other Tenses?

Among many differences, the significant difference between the present continuous and other tenses is the structure. To understand them in detail, below is a comparison between present continuous with tenses like simple present and present perfect continuous.

Sentence example.
Sentence example.

Present Continuous vs. Simple Present

  • The simple tense is used when talking about actions that are done consistently. In other words, it is used when performing things that are done routinely. For example: He plays football. In the sentence “He plays football,” the person plays football as a part of his daily life. It is not temporary instead it is a permanent routine. 

On the other hand, present continuous talks about actions that are happening now and will end in a little while. For example: She is eating now. Here, the “eating” action is happening now. It is temporary and will soon end.

  • In comparison to the simple present, forming a present continuous sentence is difficult. The structure of the present continuous is – subject + am/is/are + present participle (-ing).

On the other hand, the structure of the simple present is – subject + Verb1 + object.

  • The most common time frame words used in the simple present are always, often, generally, every day, every week, sometimes, and never.

In comparison, the common time frame words used in the present continuous are now, still, right now, these days, and at the moment.

  • All verbs are used in the simple present tense, whereas some verbs cannot be used in present continuous. Dynamic verbs are used, but stative verbs are not used in present continuous.

Present Continuous vs. Present Perfect Continuous

  • In the present continuous, the action is happening now. For example: I am eating now. Here the action of “eating” is taking place now.  

In comparison, the present perfect continuous indicates that the action has started in the past and is continuing in the present. For example: She has been learning Ballet since 2020. Here the person started learning ballet in 2020 and still continuing with it.

  • The present continuous structure is – subject + am/is/are + present participle (-ing). On the other hand, the structure of present perfect continuous is – subject + have/has + been + present participle(ing).
Sentence example.
Sentence example.

How to Use Present Continuous Tense

The present continuous is used in many situations. It is used when:

  • Talking about things that are taking place now.
  • Describing an action that is in progress but takes a longer time to perform.
  • Describing an action that will happen in the near future.
  • Describing a repetitive, irritating action.

Action Taking Place Now

The tense is used when talking about an action that is happening now. The sentences have words like now, right now, and at the moment which indicates the action is taking place now.

Positive statement wordExample


  • I am listening to music right now.
  • They are dancing at the party now.

Longer Actions In Progress

The present continuous is used to describe actions that are happening now but will take a longer time period to finish.


  • I am studying engineering to become an engineer. Here studying (action) is happening right now but this will continue for a long period of time until becoming an engineer.
  • I am practicing singing to become a classical singer. 

Near Future

It is used to describe events that are planned for the near future. The sentences have a “future word” in them. Words like tomorrow and next week are used.


  • She is visiting the theatre tomorrow. Here, the person has planned to visit the theatre but will do it in the future which is tomorrow.
  • Messi is playing at a football match the next week. 


The tense is used to describe events that repeat and irritate. 


  • She is always complaining about her workplace. Here, the person is repeatedly complaining about her workplace.
  • He is constantly coughing. I wish he takes some medicine.
Sentence example.
Sentence example.

Present Continuous Grammar Rules

  • The present continuous is formed with the auxiliary verb and the present participle of the verb. The auxiliary verb comes in the form of am/is/are. 
  • At the end of the present particle of the verb, an “ing” is added. Here is the structure: subject + am/is/are + present participle (-ing). 
  • It is created using affirmative sentences as well as negative sentences.
  • For negative sentences, there is a slight difference in the structure. The structure is – subject + am/is/are + not + present participle (-ing).
  • It is also used in creating questions. But, when creating questions, there is a slight difference. The auxiliary verb and subject interchange their positions. The structure is – am/is/are + subject + present participle (ing).

Examples of Present Continuous

Here are examples of present continuous.

Affirmative Sentences

  • He is riding a horse.
  • She is swimming in the lake.

Negative Sentences

  • I am not inviting her to my house. (I (subject) + am (auxiliary verb) + not (negative) + inviting (present participle with “ing”)).
  • She is not eating an apple. (She (subject) + is (auxiliary verb) + not (negative) + eating (present participle with “ing”)).


  • Is she laughing at me? (Is (auxiliary verb) + she (subject) + laughing (present participle with “ing”)).
  • Am I irritating you with my questions? (Am (auxiliary verb) + I (subject) + irritating (present participle with “ing”)).
  • Why is he staring at me? (Is (auxiliary verb) + he (subject) + staring (present participle with “ing”)).
Present continuous infographic
Present continuous infographic


  1. Learning the English Present Continuous Tense?
  2. Present Simple Vs Present Progressive Tense Difference
  3. Difference Between Present Simple and Present Continuous
  4. Present Simple and Present Continuous | Learn English
  5. Present Continuous Tense (Present Progressive Tense)
  6. Present Continuous | Grammar | EnglishClub
  7. Present continuous | English grammar

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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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