Sophie is working in Cairo this week. Oliver, Alfie and Daisy are working hard for their end-of-year exams.

We use the present continuous (am/is/are + -ing) to talk about temporary things which have begun but haven't finished. They are often happening now, at this moment.

Here are some examples of things happening now.

I'm just uploading some photos to Facebook and I'm sending a message to Billie.
We're all riding camels and the sun's shining.
They're waiting for me to get off the phone!

I'm not sure what 'temporary' means. Can I say 'I'm learning to drive', even if I'm not having a driving lesson right now?

Yes, absolutely! You might not be having a driving lesson right at this moment, but it is temporary, so that's correct. We use the present continuous for longer situations like this too.

OK, I see what you mean. So that’s for things happening now, or round about now. What about the future? Can I use the present continuous for the future?

Yes, I’m glad you asked me that. We use the present continuous for future arrangements with other people.

At eight I’m meeting Lucas, just for a quick coffee.

What about questions and negatives?

For questions you just change round the subject and the verb to be. So, You are > Are you, then add the –ing form. Sometimes you need a question word first.

Are you working hard for the exam?
What are you doing?
Is anybody sitting here?

For negatives you add not after the verb to be. Don't forget to use a contraction if you're speaking.

You're not really studying at all, are you? (or You aren't really studying…)
They aren't using the computer room at the moment.
This program isn't working.

That's fine, but I suppose there are some spelling rules for –ing forms?

Yes, you're right. If a verb ends in e, you take off the e and add –ing

have - having          ride - riding

If a verb ends in a vowel + a consonant, the consonant is usually doubled before you add –ing.

swim - swimming           run - running

But be careful with verbs with more than two syllables where the stress isn't on the last syllable. With those you don't double the consonant.

visit - visiting          open - opening     

OK, but what about two-syllable verbs where the stress is on the last syllable, like begin

If the stress is on the last syllable, you do double the final consonant.

begin - beginning       

Right, the present continuous seems quite easy to me. I'm understanding it perfectly!

Whoops! Sorry, you can't say 'I'm understanding it'.

Why not? I'm talking about something happening right now.

Yes, but there is a group of verbs which are called state verbs which we use for states (not actions) and we don't usually use these in the continuous form.

want - need - like - love - hate - prefer - believe - think - know - realise - understand - recognise - suppose - be - exist - appear - look - seem - belong - have (for possession) -  own - feel - smell - taste

So these are verbs for talking about emotions, thinking, existing, appearing, possession and the senses.

Yes, excellent.

But wait a minute. What about, 'I'm thinking of coming with you tomorrow.' Or, 'I'm thinking about my girlfriend.'

Yes, they are correct. But the meaning of think there is 'having thoughts in your mind' or 'considering'. It's not the same as 'having an opinion' about something.

I think that song's brilliant.   (opinion)
She's thinking about studying archaeology.  (considering / wondering about)

OK, so there are some exceptions. Like, 'I'm loving it.'

No, sorry, that's not an exception, that's wrong!

It can't be wrong!

Well, OK, maybe it's a new usage. English does change. But don't use it in exams!


Language level: 


Are you good at doing lots of things at the same time? What are you doing now, apart from practising your English?


TR790's picture
TR790 22 May, 2020 - 14:49

Yeah! I am good at doing lots of things at the same time. At the moment, I am studying English grammar, listening to music and watching news.

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BttChiara's picture
BttChiara 19 May, 2020 - 18:02

Yes, I am. At the moment I'm studying English and I'm talking with my friend at the same time!

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MatildePace's picture
MatildePace 26 March, 2020 - 14:55

I'm good at doing lots of things at the same time. Now I'm doing English and listening to music. I focus better when I listen to music.

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Desy's picture
Desy 25 March, 2020 - 11:56

Oh no, I'm not good at doing lots of things at the same time! But when I do something I do it good. Now I'm doing only English.

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gattifederica's picture
gattifederica 25 March, 2020 - 10:49

Yes, I am. In fact, in this moment, while I’m studying, I’m listening to music. Now I’m doing the volleyball exercises because I play volleyball and my teacher gave me them to do at home. I’m making video calls with my teacher and my team because in this period nobody can leave the house. I‘m doing the next video call on Monday.

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AnnAmulet1000's picture
AnnAmulet1000 16 April, 2019 - 10:38

I am not good at doing a lot of things at the same time. Now I am studying English and that's it.

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KasiaAmulet1000's picture
KasiaAmulet1000 16 April, 2019 - 10:37

I am sometimes doing a lot of things at the same time. Now I studying English and I am thinking about food.

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Youjiro's picture
Youjiro 31 January, 2019 - 13:50

I'm not good doing lot of things at the same time .I feel nervous at that time.I focus on what I'm doing. I'm listing podcast on the bed .I'm studying English without music .I'm doing homework without the internet.

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naturegirl's picture
naturegirl 13 October, 2018 - 18:38

I'm revising present continous for next English lesson and I'm talking to my father who is helping me.

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Englishlearner2018's picture
Englishlearner2018 28 December, 2017 - 19:14

I like this grammer form because it is pretty esay. And i am listening to BBC News at the moment.

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Elu17's picture
Elu17 27 February, 2017 - 16:45

While I am writing this comment I am; learning English, listening to lofi hip hop music, enjoying a cup of black tea and eating a slice of homemade carrot cake. Multitasking at its best!

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pparedes984's picture
pparedes984 3 January, 2017 - 03:44

I'm not very good doing a lot of things at the same time beacuse I'm very distracted, i have too concentrate in one thing to do it right. I study all the days, I practice basketball, and i hang out with my friends thats too many things that I have to do once a time beacuse I'm to distracted

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VShirleyCh's picture
VShirleyCh 2 January, 2017 - 15:32

If I can do different things at the same time, for example right now I'm practicing my English, and I'm eating a cookie I'm also watching cartoons on television with my little sister, while singing and making lots of noise, I have to take care of her, Songs of pepa pig along with my sister, in a few minutes I go to bathe and then I go to the amusement park, and then have lunch.

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shamim's picture
shamim 2 August, 2016 - 19:07

I'm reading over the conversation, I think about a problem that I had at school today...I'm taking a look on my mobile...
I usually do lots of things together!!! this is a bad habit!! I can focus, I read an article about multitasking and now most of the women are multitasking...but in my opinion, I think that is a bad habit....

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Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
Jonathan - Coor... 26 April, 2016 - 06:12

Hi doggy10000. Good question. First, let's check the meanings of these words.

  • dynamic verbs (e.g. run, jump, eat, swim, hit) - they are single or repeated actions.
  • state verbs (e.g. believe, like, hate) - these are unchanging states. Unlike actions, we don't usually think of them as having a definite start or end point. They just exist. We can't use these verbs with continuous tenses. 

A concrete verb and the opposite, an abstract verb, is a different classification. Concrete verbs are actions which can be demonstrated, observed or measured. Abstract verbs cannot (e.g. believe, like, hate). Although many dynamic verbs are also concrete (e.g. run, jump, eat), there are some which are not. For example, change, grow and hurt are dynamic, but they are abstract. So, the state/dynamic and concrete/abstract classification is not exactly the same. 

It's tricky but does that make sense??

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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