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Advanced Level: Present Continuous

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The functions of the Present Continuous can be divided into four but the form is the same:

...am/is/are + present participle (i.e. -ing)
You are reading 'War and Peace'.
Are you reading 'War and Peace'?
You are not reading 'War and Peace'.

Use 1 – NOW

We use the present continuous with verbs that express actions to express the idea that something is happening now, at the very moment of speaking.

You are learning English now.
You are not studying now?
Are you watching this programme?
They are working to meet the deadline.
He is not watching TV.
What are you doing?
Why aren't you speaking to Sarah?

Use 2 – Long actions in progress now

Now can mean: this moment, today, this month, this year, this decade etc. The Present Continuous is used to express an action that is happening over a period of time and is in progress as we speak. However it may not be taking place at the moment of speaking.
All these examples could be said while chatting to a friend at a bar:

I am learning French.
She's studying to become a doctor.
I'm reading 'Gone with the Wind'.
Are you still working in London?

Use – 3 Near Future

The Present Continuous can be used to indicate that something will or will not happen in the near future. The Present Continuous indicates that the action has been agreed on or is a fixed arrangement in the future.

I am meeting my friends after work.
He is not going to the party tonight.
They are traveling to Japan next month.

Use 4 – Repetition and irritation (always)

The Present Continuous with 'always', 'constantly' etc. expresses the idea that something irritating or upsetting often happens. This tends to have a negative emotion. 'Always' and 'constantly' are placed in front of the main verb, after 'BE'.

She is always coming to the office late.
He is constantly talking.
They're always complaining.

Non-Continuous verbs/mixed verbs

It is important to remember that n0n-continuous verbs ( state verbs) cannot be used in any continuous tenses. Also certain mixed verbs cannot be used in the continuous tenses.

She loves dancing. NOT She is loving dancing.
Jenny appears concerned. ( She looks concerned)
Jenny is appearing concerned. (Incorrect as 'is appearing' means 'will be seen' i.e. in a performance)


Adverbs such as; always, only, never, ever, still, just etc. are placed in front of the main verb, after the auxiliary 'BE'.

Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English school

Now complete the following with the correct form:

  • 1. I have to change my shoes. These _ me. I'm sure I have a blister.

  • 2. I feel a bit lost. I've just finished a really good novel and now I _ anything.

  • 3. Coming to London for Christmas was a great I idea. I _ it here.

  • 4. The company _ its offices to a bigger building next month.

  • 5. John really knows his subject. He _ a lecture on social media at university every Wednesday. You should come.

  • 6. Sarah _ me when I speak. It's so irritating.

  • 7. Can you help me with these boxes or _ ?

  • 8. I _ people who never really listen to what you say.