Teaching and Learning Since 2002

The Present Continuous Tense

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  1. Main use: Right now
  2. Present continuous grammar
  3.  NEW!  "Now" time words

Main use: Right now

Look at the picture below. You are watching a baseball game on TV, and the game is live. So everything is happening now.
Screen capture from a TV baseball game with the batter swinging and missing a pitch.
Several things are happening right now:

  1. The batter is swinging his bat.
  2. The pitcher and umpire are watching the ball.
  3. The catcher is catching the ball.
  4. The woman in the white shirt is talking to her husband.
  5. The man behind the umpire is filming the game. Hey, that is against MLB rules!
  6. Two men are posing for a picture.
  7. The woman in the far right is texting.
  8. I am giving many examples.

Wow! I bet you had no idea how busy baseball games can be. In English, we use the present continuous (also called the present progressive) to talk about what actions are happening now. There are a few similar uses that this page will cover. For now, the next section will talk about how to use them in sentences.

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Present continuous grammar

All continuous sentences must have the auxiliary verb [be], the verb, and the -ing ending after the verb. Under the RTS, [be] and -ing must always be in the same sentence and are colored white and green, respectively. There are two steps in making a sentence present continuous:

1st: The [be] auxiliary verb

[be] must agree with the subject of the verb. Luckily, the rules are exactly the same as in the simple present tense. See the table below:

SubjectSubject Examples[be] verbSentence Example
First-person singularIamI am teaching English.
Second-person singularyouareYou are reading TextRich.
Third-person singularhe, she, it, dog, BethisHe is waiting for the bus.
First-person pluralwe, Beth and I areWe are doing homework.
Second-person pluralyou, Beth and youareYou are playing baseball together.
Third-person pluralthey, dogs, Beth and Jill areThe Johnsons are coming.

be is never used in the present continuous. If you have seen be with -ing together before, you have seen them in a different tense, the future continuous. An example sentence is: You will be learning about the future continuous.

2nd: The -ing verb ender

Next, you need to add -ing to the end of the verb. It is not always that easy. There are a few rules depending on the ending of the verbs' spelling, as shown in the table below. Remember, vowels = a, e, i, o, u and consonants = everything else.

Verb ending with:Do:Example
1 vowel and 1 consonant (not w, x, y)Double the final consonantplanplanning
1 consonant + eRemove erecyclerecycling
i + eRemove e and change i to ydiedying
2 vowels + 1 consonantJust add ingreadreading
2 consonantsJust add ingteachteaching

The first spelling rule is the hardest one. The -e rule is not bad. Keep reading to improve your grammar and check back here if you forget the rules. For now, you can review this section!

Section Review

Change the sentences below from the simple present to the present continuous. Check the two rules above if you aren't sure why you got something wrong. Ignore the -s verb ender.

  1. We stand in line.  ANSWER 

  2. I stop the car.  ANSWER 

  3. Maggie drives the tractor.  ANSWER 

  4. You both lie to Dad.  ANSWER 

  5. The Celtics rue their loss.  ANSWER 

  6. You spread the jam.  ANSWER 

  7. Uncle Bob mows the lawn.  ANSWER 

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"Now" time words

It is easier to show that a sentence is in the present continuous tense if time words showing "now" are used. See the table below for some examples. Notice that the words are in two different categories - This Exact Time and Around This Time.

This Exact TimeAround This Time
at the momentat present
at this minutefor now
at this momentpresently
at this secondthese days
at this timethis month
for the momentthis season
for the time beingthis semester
nowthis week
right nowthis year
this momenttoday

You have already read about how the present continuous tense is used for This Exact Time. You will read more about Around This Time. For now, these time words are usually put in sentences two ways:

1.) At the end of the sentence. Example - You are reading TextRich right now.
2.) At the beginning of the sentence. Example - Right now, You are reading TextRich.

#2 is used if we want to emphasize the time (show that it is the most important part of the sentence). #1 emphasizes the verb more than the time.

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©opyright 2017 by Richard Knopf
Updated April 21, 2015