The present progressive tense

Present continuous: form

We use am, are, is + the –ing form of the verb. We use the short form more often than the full form, especially when speaking.

+I,you, we, theyshe, he, it(full form)amare,isworking.
I,you, we, theyshe, he, it(short form)’m’re’s
I,you, we, theyshe, he, it(full form)am notare notis notworking.
I,you, we, theyshe, he, it(short form)’m not’re not or aren’t’s not or isn’t
? +AmAre,IsIyou, we, theyshe, he, itworking?
? −(full form)AmAreIsIyou, we, theyshe, he, itnotworking?
(short form)Aren’tIsn’tI, you, we, theyshe, he, it

Present continuous: -ing form spelling

For most verbs we add -ing to the base form to make the –ing form:


For other verbs the spelling changes are (note the underlined syllables are stressed):

verbing form
When the verb ends in -e, we take off the –e and add –ing.movemoving
When the verb ends in a vowel followed by a single consonant and if the last syllable is stressed, then the consonant is doubled.commitcommitting
When the verb ends in a vowel + l, we double the consonant.traveltravelling*

* American English spelling is traveling.

Present continuous: uses

Events at the time of speaking

We use the present continuous to talk about events which are in progress at the moment of speaking:


What time’s dinner?


I’m cooking now so it’ll be ready in about half an hour.

She’s pressing the button but nothing is happening.

Temporary states

We use the present continuous to talk about temporary states which are true around the moment of speaking:

Her mother’s living with her at the moment. She’s just come out of hospital.

Who’s looking after the children while you’re here?

Repeated temporary events

We use the present continuous to describe actions which are repeated or regular, but which we believe to be temporary:

I’m not drinking much coffee these days. I’m trying to cut down.

She’s working a lot in London at the moment. (She doesn’t usually work in London.)


We use the present continuous to talk about a gradual change:

They’re building a new stand at the football ground.

Maria, 37, is getting better and doctors are optimistic she will make a full recovery.

Recent evidence suggests that the economic situation is improving.

Regular unplanned events

We often use the present continuous with words like always, constantly, continually and forever (adverbs of indefinite frequency) to describe events which are regular but not planned, and often not wanted:

My wife, she’s always throwing things out. I like to keep everything.

I’m constantly spilling things.

Plans and arrangements

We use the present continuous to refer to the future when we talk about plans and arrangements that have already been made:

We’re moving to Cambridge in July.

Sarah isn’t taking Rory to football training later. She hasn’t got the car tonight.

Aren’t you playing tennis on Saturday?

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