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Present Continuous Tense: Definition, Structure, and Usage

The present continuous tense is also known as the present progressive tense. The words continuous and progressive both show actions currently occurring within the sentence. You can use either word to describe this, and their use is based on personal preference.

The present continuous tense shows actions that are currently happening and indicates when the event is temporary.

For example:

  • I am walking to the store. 
  • She is traveling to Europe next week. 
  • He is currently studying for an exam. 

How Do You Form the Present Continuous Tense?

The present continuous tense uses the present participle form of a verb. Present continuous verbs include a helping or auxiliary verb and the present participle form. The present participle form is formed using the base verb plus the suffix -ing. For instance, fix becomes fixing.

Let’s look at how you can form sentences in the present continuous tense. 

The Present Continuous Tense Formula

The formula to create a present continuous tense sentence is:

  • Subject + am/is/are + -ing form of the verb

For example:

  • She is going crazy with boredom while sitting in the training.

There are different uses of the present continuous tense. Let’s look at these different categories using the above formula. 

What Are the Different Uses of the Present Continuous Tense?

There are various scenarios during which you would use the present continuous tense. Look at these different uses and their related examples so you can apply them to your speech and writing. 

When Something Is Happening at Present

Use the present continuous tense with normal verbs to express an ongoing action.

For example:

  • I am reading a novel for my class. 
  • She is asking specific questions during her presentation. 
  • He is traveling overseas to visit friends.

When Something Is Happening at the Time of Speaking

Use this grammatical tense for actions currently happening while you are speaking. It can be an action you’re doing or a specific event occurring. Use words and phrases such as right now and at the moment to indicate the time frame.

For example:

  • My aunt is baking cookies now.
  • I am eating dinner at the moment.

When Describing Regular Unplanned Events

You should use the present continuous tense with words like always, continually, and constantly to describe regular events that do not entail a firm plan. This use may indicate irritation at the events.

For example:

  • My husband is always going out late at night.
  • I am constantly breaking things in the house.

When Describing a Future Plan

The present continuous form is essential when we want to share what we have planned at a specific time in the future. Remember to use time expressions to show a specific period of time for future plans.

For example:

  • I’m writing him a letter tonight.
  • Sasha is starting driving lessons this summer break.

When Indicating a Temporary Event

Use the present continuous tense when a situation is temporary. Use it with words and phrases such as usually, often, and at the moment.

For example:

  • I usually read romance fiction, but I’m reading non-fiction tonight.
  • Los Angeles looks sunny, but I’m currently staying in Chicago.

Present Continuous Tense Questions Formation

Present continuous questions express questions about actions currently happening. 

If you wish to write question sentences, here is the formula for the question form:

  • Am/is/are + subject + -ing form of the verb

For example:

  • Are you going to the party tonight?

Present Continuous Negative Tense Formation

To make the sentence negative, here is the formula for this type of sentence form. 

  • Subject + is/am/are + NOT + -ing form of the verb
  • For example:I am not going to the party tonight.