The present progressive tense

The form:

Affirmative Negative Question
I am writing.
She is writing.
You are writing.
I am not writing.
She is not writing.
You are not writing.
Am I writing?
Is she writing?
Are you writing?

Uses of the present progressive tense

to denote time around now

We use the present progressive to talk about temporary actions and situations that are going on ‘around now’.

  • It is raining.
  • I am writing letters.
  • She is having a bath at the moment.
  • Hurry up! We are all waiting for you.
  • What are you doing? I am doing my homework.
  • The kettle is boiling.

The present progressive suggests that the action began before the moment of speaking; it is going on at the moment of speaking and will probably go on after the moment of speaking.

developing and changing situations

The present progressive can be used to talk about developing and changing situations.

  • The universe is expanding.
  • It is getting darker.
  • The climate is getting warmer.
  • You are getting younger every day.
talking about the future

We often use the present progressive to talk about the future.

  • She is leaving for Mumbai on Monday.
  • What are you doing tomorrow evening?
  • Janet is coming soon.
physical feelings

Verbs that refer to physical feelings (e.g. hurt, ache, feel) can often be used in simple or progressive tenses without much difference of meaning.

  • My tooth aches. OR My tooth is aching.
  • How do you feel? OR How are you feeling?

verbs not used in progressive forms

There are some verbs which are never or hardly ever used in progressive forms.

Examples are: believe, love, doubt, hate, suppose, prefer, imagine, realise, understand, know, want, remember, wish, like, need etc.

  • I like his attitude. (NOT I am liking …)
  • I rang her up because I needed to talk. (NOT … because I was needing to talk.)
  • I have only known her for two days. (NOT I have only been knowing her …)

Some other verbs are not used in progressive forms when they have certain meanings.

Examples are: feel (= have an opinion), see (= understand), think (= have an opinion), look (= seem).

  • I am seeing the doctor at eight o’clock.
  • I see (= understand) what you mean. (NOT I am seeing what …)
  • I am feeling fine. OR I fell fine.
  • I feel (= have an opinion) we shouldn’t do it. (NOT I am feeling we shouldn’t do it.)
  • I think (= have an opinion) she is right. (NOT I am thinking …)

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