Present continuous

This page shows the most common uses of the present continuous in English, together with many examples and links to other resources.

For actions happening now

When we want to talk about an action that is happening now or at this time(and is unfinished), we use the present continuous tense. We also use this tense when we want to make clear that the action is temporary.

  • Sorry, she can't come to the phone right now; she is having a bath.
  • Look! Someone is trying to break into your car.
  • This work is good! Your handwriting is getting better and better.
  • I'm wearing these old trousers to school this week, as we're doing a pottery course and it's very messy work!
  • Of course she likes you. You're just being stupid!
  • Where's John? - He's playing soccer in the sports hall.
  • [Passive] You'll have to wait. The food is still being cooked.
  • This calculator isn't working properly. Do you have another one.
  • You can go outside now. It isn't raining any more.
  • What are you doing? - My watch is broken and I'm trying to fix it.
  • Why are you talking? You should be listening to me.

For future arrangements

We usually use the present continuous tense for future events that have already been arranged:

  • I'm meeting my mother at the airport tomorrow.
  • Our grandmother is visiting us at Christmas.
  • Sorry, I can't stay after school today; I'm playing tennis with Jun-Sik.
  • My mother's going to the dentist tomorrow.
  • [Passive] The meeting is being held in the cafeteria tomorrow, not in the auditorium.
  • I'm not going home at Christmas, so I can come to your party after all.
  • Are you doing anything on Sunday morning?
  • Do you know if he is going to the dance with Maiko next week?

To express annoyance at repeated actions

Usually the present simple is used for repeated actions; for example, He always gets up before 7 o'clock. But the present continuous is the correct choice when the speaker wants to express annoyance at a repeated action. (Note how often the word "always" is used in such statements):

  • You are always interrupting me when I'm talking and I don't like it!
  • She's always tapping her pencil on the desk and it's getting on my nerves!
  • My ESL teacher's always giving detentions; how can anyone be so mean?
  • I'm getting tired of you always coming late to class.
  • Why is it always raining in Germany?
  • Why are you always criticising me?

This use of the present continuous is not possible as a negative statement.

More resources for learning the present continuous

Go to a page with a conjugation of the present continuous in positive statements, negative statements and questions.

There are several interactive quizzes on the present continuous in the Verb grammar: Tenses drop-down menu on the Grammar index.