Present Continuous Tense


I am singing

We often use the present continuous tense in English. It is very different from the simple present tense, both in structure and in use.


How do we make the Present Continuous Tense?

The structure of the present continuous tense is:

subject+auxiliary verb+main verb
  be base + ing

Look at these examples:

 subjectauxiliary verb main verb 
+Iam speakingto you.
+Youare readingthis.
-Sheisnotstayingin London.
?Ishe watchingTV?
?Arethey waitingfor John?


How do we use the Present Continuous Tense?

We use the present continuous tense to talk about:

  • action happening now
  • action in the future

Present continuous tense for action happening now

a) for action happening exactly now

I am eating my lunch.
 The action is happening now. 

Look at these examples.

...the pages are turning....the candle is burning....the numbers are spinning.

b) for action happening around now

The action may not be happening exactly now, but it is happening just before and just after now, and it is not permanent or habitual.

John is going out with Mary.


 The action is happening around now. 

Look at these examples:

  • Muriel is learning to drive.
  • I am living with my sister until I find an apartment.

Present continuous tense for the future

We can also use the present continuous tense to talk about the future - if we add a future word!! We must add (or understand from the context) a future word. "Future words" include, for example, tomorrow, next year, in June, at Christmas etc. We only use the present continuous tense to talk about the future when we have planned to do something before we speak. We have already made a decision and a plan before speaking.

I am taking my exam next month.
 A firm plan or programme exists now.The action is in the future.

Look at these examples:

  • We're eating in a restaurant tonight. We've already booked the table..
  • They can play tennis with you tomorrow. They're not working.
  • When are you starting your new job?

In these examples, we have a firm plan or programme before speaking. The decision and plan were made before speaking.


How do we spell the Present Continuous Tense?

We make the present continuous tense by adding -ing to the base verb. Normally it's simple - we just add -ing. But sometimes we have to change the word a little. Perhaps we double the last letter, or we drop a letter. Here are the rules to help you know how to spell the present continuous tense.

Basic ruleJust add -ing to the base verb:
Exception 1If the base verb ends in consonant + stressed vowel + consonant, double the last letter:
(vowels = a, e, i, o, u)
Note that this exception does not apply when the last syllable of the base verb is not stressed:
Exception 2If the base verb ends in ie, change the ie to y:
Exception 3If the base verb ends in vowel + consonant + e, omit the e: