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Also Known As: Present Progressive

The present continuous verb tense is used to show that an action is ongoing or is happening now, whether that be “now” in a direct sense or in a more general sense. This tense can also be used to show that an action will be taking place in the very near future. Continue reading for detailed descriptions of uses, how to form the present continuous verb tense, and examples

To Form the Present Continuous Tense

The present continuous verb tense is formed by taking a form of one of the helping verbs am, is, or are, and adding the present participle form of a verb.

In the case of the first person subject “I”, use am.

When you are discussing a second person singular subject “you”,  or the plural subjects “we”, and “they”, use are.

When talking about someone using the third person singular subjects “he”, “she”, and “it”, use is.  

Most present participles are created with the addition of the suffix“-ing” (more details on that below).

 

To ask a question in the present continuous tense, invert the am/is/are and the subject or pronoun (if applicable).

To form a negative sentence, insert “not” between the am/is/are and the present participle.

Here are some examples of that information in action: 

 

Statement Question Negative 
I am running five miles. Am I running five miles? I am not running five miles.
You are running five miles. Are you running five miles?  You are not running five miles. 
He is running five miles. Is he running five miles?  He is not running five miles.
She is running five miles. Is she running five miles?  She is not running five miles.
They are running five miles. Are they running five miles? They are not running five miles.
We are running five miles. Are we running five miles? We are not running five miles.
It is running five miles.  Is it running five miles? It is not running five miles. 

How to Form the Present Participle 

Typically, we form the present participle by adding the suffix “-ing”. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. In some cases, you may need to either drop or double the last letter. 


For verbs like be, do, work, and cry, all you need to do is add -ing. They become being, doing, working, and crying. 


However, there are three other rules that apply to creating a present participle.

First,  if the base form of the verb ends in a consonant followed by a stressed vowel and another consonant, you will need to double the last letter.

In our example above, we used the base word “sit”. “S” is a consonant, followed by the stressed vowel “i”, then the last consonant “t”. So, when you’re creating the present participle form of this verb, it becomes “sitting”.

Remember that the definition of vowel includes the letters “a”, “e”, “i”, “o”, and “u”.


In addition, if the base verb ends in “ie”, then to form the present participle, the “ie” is dropped, and a “y” is added. The verb “lie” becomes “lying”, the verb “die” becomes “dying”, and so on. In this way, sometimes “y” acts as the necessary vowel in the syllable.

 

The last exception to the “-ing” rule occurs when the base verb ends in a vowel followed by a consonant followed by an “e”. In this case, the “e” is dropped. For example, the verb “come” changes to “coming”, the verb “clone” changes to “cloning”, and the verb “hope” changes to “hoping”. 

 

When To Use the Present Continuous Tense 

Here are a few specific instances where use of the present continuous tense would be appropriate. 

Actions Happening Now 

The present continuous verb tense is often used to talk about events that are currently happening at the moment of speech. Sometimes, when you say you’re eating tacos for Taco Tuesday, you’re mid-crunch, literally eating tacos on a Tuesday. 

Examples: 

You are riding your bike into town. 

I am reading, so leave me alone. 

She is making a sandwich. 

Are they climbing the mountain? 

We are not leaving. 

Actions That Are Ongoing 

Use present continuous to talk about events that are ongoing and continue to happen although they’ve been happening for a while.

In addition, you can use present continuous to discuss longer actions that are currently in progress but won’t be completed until later.

For example, in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Frodo may have said, “I’m on a quest to throw this ring into the fires of Mordor.” At the moment he was speaking, Frodo may have actually been about to take a nap or perhaps drink an elvish beverage by a pool.

He wasn’t literally walking and fighting bad guys at the moment, but he was on a quest, generally speaking.

Examples: 

I am reading a very interesting book. 

She is studying to become a lawyer. 

He is taking a cooking class. 

We are working on the Anderson account. 

Are you studying anything right now? 

 

Actions Occurring In The Near Future

You can even discuss the future using present continuous, but the catch is that the actions or events must already be planned before the sentence is spoken. These are usually plans made prior with a set time frame or concrete steps.

Examples: 

I am meeting her for dinner later. 

Are you arriving tomorrow? 

I am finishing my book tonight. 

She is eating at 7 pm. 

We are not going to the party this week. 

 

Actions That Are Annoying or Irritating (“Always”) 

If you have siblings, chances are good that you’ve used the present continuous tense when talking about how they drive you a bit mad. You brother is always making annoying noises, or your sister is always correcting you.

My dog is often annoying, too. She is always leaving her food all over the floor after she picks out the pieces she enjoys.

You don’t have to use the word “always. Instead, try using words with similar meanings. You can also use negative sentences for this meaning.

Examples: 

She is always arriving late, and I’m sick of it!

You are constantly talking. 

Are you always complaining? 

We are not always on time for class. 

He is constantly sleeping. 

A Note About Non-Continuous Verbs

Using a continuous tense is dependent on the kind of verb being used because there are quite a few verbs that simply do not work in a continuous tense.

Those that do work are verbs that you can see or hear being done. They are action verbs, and they take place on a visible or audible level. One test to assure that these verbs “work” is to try them with the phrase can + see/hear. Let’s look at a few examples of this:

I can see someone jump, so jump can be continuous.
I can hear someone yell, so yell can be continuous.
I can see someone faint, so faint can be continuous.
I can not see OR hear someone remember.
I can not see OR hear someone have.


Verbs that are non-continuous include those that are feelings, thoughts, senses other than seeing and hearing, convey communication, or show some other state of being.

On occasion, verbs will be mixed, which conveys that they have more than one meaning. For example, the word “have” can mean ownership. You would not say “Katie has been having a cat for the last two years.” That would be incorrect.

You could say, however, that “Katie had been having fun with her cat until her dog ran in the room.” In this context, having means “experiencing”, and it can be used as a continuous verb.

When you are unable to use a continuous verb tense, you will need to revert to the simple present tense instead.  

Examples from Film

In the 2012 film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Gandalf says, “”I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.” He has been looking, he is currently looking, and he will continue to look if Bilbo Baggins doesn’t take him up on this offer.

 

In the 2002 film Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clone Wars, Obi-Wan Kenob is taking Anakin Skywalker to see Padme for the first time since they were kids. He looks over in the elevator and tells Anakin, “You’re Sweating. Relax. Take a deep breath.” Anakin has been sweating and is currently sweating. And, he will continue to sweat (which is not exactly a great impression to make) unless he can relax.

And in Disney’s The Lion King, Pumba asks the young Simba, “Hey, where are you going?” after he and Timone rescue him from being attacked by buzzards. The hopeless Simba responds, “Nowhere,” and starts to sulk off. Thankfully, these two caring yet carefree misfits intervene and keep Simba from continuing to go nowhere.

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