The present continuous tense is used to show an activity that is in progress or not complete at the time of speaking. The activity started in the past and will go into the future.
The present continuous tense of any verb is formed with the auxiliary verb to be (am, is, are, was, were) and the present participle of the main verb (verb + ing). The auxiliary verb varies according to the person used with the present continuous tense.
- I am eating pasta with meat sauce.
- She is reading a book on how to get rid of cockroaches.
- The sisters are walking out after a row with their boyfriends.
- Police were investigating a dead body that was burnt beyond recognition.
We use the present continuous tense:
for an action that is still happening at the time of speaking.
- Grandfather is removing dirt under his nail.
- We are waiting to greet our new neighbor at the door.
- His parents are taking drugs to treat depression, insomnia and sleep disorders..
for an action in the future without specifying when.
- The mother is cooking traditional Indian dishes for dinner.
(It's still early in the day, and the mother is not cooking now. She will cook for dinner later in the evening.)
- We are going to complain to the council about this!
- I am replying to the letter as soon as I have the time.
to talk about a planned or an arranged action that is to take place at a particular time in the future.
- She is running in the big race on Saturday.
- We are flying kites after lunch..
- The students are performing magic tricks on stage next week.
for an action that is going on but not taking place at the time of speaking.
- Jack is teaching at a secondary boys' school.
(Jack is a teacher at the school, but he is not actually teaching now. He may be watching television at the moment of speaking.)
- Grace is studying Italian in college.
(Grace is pursuing a course in Italian, but she's not doing any studying in college now.)
for a changing or evolving situation.
- Pollution is causing global warming.
- They are hailing it as the new wonder drug.
- A small acorn is growing into a great oak tree.
to describe a repeated action that the speaker finds irritating.
- The noise is beginning to irritate me.
- She is moaning to me again that she hasn't got enough money.
- The dogs are barking again..
with an adverb like always, constantly, forever, etc to describe an action that happens many times or frequently.
- My old car is always breaking down.
- She is constantly reminding me to pay back the money I owe her.
- He is forever making unfavourable comments about his mother-in-law.
There are main verbs, generally action verbs that are not normally used in the present continuous tense. These are verbs of perception; verbs used with the five senses; or verbs used to describe states.
- Wrong: I am liking Indian food.
- Right: I like Indian food.
- Wrong: We are believing her ghost story is true.
- Right: We believe her ghost story is true.
- Wrong: They are deciding to go for a ride on a camel.
- Right: They decide to go for a ride on a camel.
In questions, the auxiliary to be (am/is/are/was/were) comes before the subject, and the subject is followed by the present participle of the main verb (am/is/are/were + subject + verb-ing).
- Is the boss taking us out for dinner?
- Is your dog barking at nothing again?
- Are those dogs barking at my kitten yours?
In answer to question, the auxiliary verb is commonly used without the main verb.
- Am I eating more than you? Answer: Yes, you are.
- Are you keeping that slice of pizza for me? Answer: No, I am not.
- Are they saying behind my back that I am good for nothing? Answer: Yes, they are.
- Was their dog eating from my dog's food dish? No, it wasn’t. / No, it was not.
Remember the present continuous tense is used in the following ways.