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The Present Continuous Tense

The Present Continuous tense is a verb construction that conveys a sense of ongoing action at the present time. This means that the action has started before the moment of speaking and it will finish at an indefinite moment after the present time.

    I am reading "Pride and Prejudice" for the second time these days.
    He is talking to his boss, so he can't come to the phone right now.
    She is playing a piece from the "Swan Lake" by Tchaikovsky.

Formulation of the Present Continuous tense

To build this tense we need to use the auxiliary verb 'to be' in the present tense plus the present participle (the -ing form) of the main verb:

  • I am speaking
  • You are speaking
  • He/She/It is speaking
  • We are speaking
  • You are speaking
  • They are speaking

Usage of the Present Continuous tense

  • To refer to events that are in progress or are true at the time of speaking or writing;
  • To describe actions that are repeated or regular but are judged to be temporary;
  • To describe regular actions in relation to a particular time or a specified event, especially when those events interrupt something already in progress;
  • To refer to gradual processes of change
  • With adverbs of indefinite frequency (such as always, constantly, continually, forever) to describe events that are regular but unplanned and often undesired.

Confusion between the Present Simple and the Present Continuous Tenses

In some instances we need to use a form of the present tense to show that something is happening now and is continuing to happen. This tense is the Present Progressive or Continuous.

Native English speakers do not have any trouble deciding which form of the present tense to use, but this is an endless source of difficulty to foreigners. Try your hand by doing this exercise.

Use the present tense contiunuous to express a temporary action

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Action Verbs vs. State Verbs

The majority of the verbs are action verbs, designating an action that one can start and end as and when one wants to: come, go, play, talk, wait, write, read, speak, etc.

On the contrary, state verbs designate a mental state, that one can not start and stop whenever one wants to. There is a sense of continuity in them: exist, be, have, know, believe, understand, etc. Because of this implied natural continuity, these verbs do not take the Present Continuous tense.

Examples of verbs that are not normally used in the continuous aspect:

  1. Verbs of perception: see, hear, notice, smell, taste, feel, etc.
  2. Verbs of thinking: think (that), consider (that), understand, know, realise, suppose, believe, remember, forget, recollect, recall, expect, mind, etc.
  3. Verbs of feeling: want, wish, desire, like, hate, dislike, care, refuse, forgive, mind, adore, hope, intend, agree, etc.
  4. Verbs indicating states of permanent qualities of people or objects: be, belong, own, have (=possess), contain, include, comprise, weigh, measure, cost, resemble, consist, require, need, etc.
  5. Miscellaneous verbs: concern, matter, mean, seem, signify, appear (=seem), keep (=continue), etc.

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