Present Progressive

Breaking Down the Present Progressive Tense

The Present progressive tense (or as it's also known, Present continuous tense), expresses action that has started and continues in progress at the moment of speaking.

We use the present continuous tense to express action that began recently and continuing presently, this day, this week, this month, this year, and will probably end at some point in the future.

The Present progressive tense stresses emphasis on:

1.  something or activity that is happening right now. In English, now can mean this period, today, this month, this season, this century, etc.

See Practical Examples:
  • The factory guards are working on the night shift.
  • The sun is rising gradually.
  • The rats are scavenging through the garbage cans for food.
  • The thoughtful farmer is fencing his orchard to keep away stray cows.

All the expressions in these sentences are continuous activities that are continuing at the moment.

2.  something or activity that is unfinished and continuing.

See Practical Examples:
  • Genesis is shooting a new movie featuring action thriller characters.
  • Gretchen is studying tenses in English grammar this semester.
  • The country man is trying to improve his social skills.
  • The couples are busying with dinner in the kitchen.

All these activities are continuing and far from finish.

How to use the Present Progressive Tense

First and foremost we must make sure there is agreement between subjects and the be auxiliary forms as the chart below indicates:

Agreement between Subject and Auxiliary Verb ‘Be’
Auxiliary ‘Am’ is used with subject ‘I’.
Auxiliary ‘Is’ is used with subject ‘He and She’ + All Singular Subjects.
Auxiliary ‘Are’ is used with subject ‘We’ ‘You’ and ‘They’ + All Plural Subjects.

1.  Expression of Affirmative Statements with Present Continuous Tense — To express affirmative statements, the structure: Subject + am/is/are + –ing form of verb is used.

See Practical Examples:
  • I am building my house this year.
  • Andy is learning a new programming language.
  • George [He/She] is learning a new programming language.
  • You/we/they are learning a new programming language.

2.  Expression of Negative Statements with Present Continuous Tense. — To express negative statements with present continuous tense, the structure: Subject + am/is/are + not + –ing form of verb is used.

See Practical Examples:
  • I am not learning a new programming language.
  • George [he/she] is not learning a new programming language.
  • We/you/they are not learning a new programming language.
Contraction — 1 [‘Auxiliary + Not’]
  • Short (Contracted) Form of ‘am not’ ⇒ amn’t [this form is rarely used]
  • Short (Contracted) Form of ‘is not’ ⇒ isn’t
  • Short (Contracted) Form of ‘are not’⇒ aren’t
Examples [Contracted form of ‘Auxiliary + Not’] include:
  • I amn’t learning a new programming language.
  • He/She isn’t learning a new programming language.
  • We/You/They aren’t learning a new programming language.
Contraction — 2 [‘Subject + Auxiliary’]

Instead of using short form of ‘Auxiliary + Not’, you can use short form of [‘Subject + Auxiliary’]; I + am = I’m, He + is = He’s, She + is = She’s, We + are = We’re, You + are = You’re, They + are = They’re

Examples [Contracted form of ‘Subject + Auxiliary’] include:
  • I’m not learning a new programming language.
  • He’s/She’s not learning a new programming language.
  • We’re/You’re/They’re not learning a new programming language.

3.  Expression of Interrogative Statements with Present Continuous Tense — To express interrogative statements with present continuous tense, the structure: Am/Is/Are + Subject + –ing form of verb is used:

See Practical Examples:
  • Am I learning a new programming language?
  • Is Andy learning a new programming language?
  • Is he/she learning a new programming language?
  • Are we/you/they learning a new programming language?
Use of Interrogative Word
Interrogative Word + am/is/are + subject + –ing form of verb
Examples include:
  • Why am I learning a new programming language?
  • Why is he/she learning a new programming language?
  • Why are we/you/they learning a new programming language?

4.  Expression of interrogative–Negative Statements with Present Continuous Tense — To make interrogative-negative statements with present continuous tense, the structure: Am/Is/Are + Subject + not + –ing form of verb is used:

See Practical Examples:
  • Am I not learning a new programming language?
  • Is he/she not learning a new programming language?
  • Are we/you/they not learning a new programming?
Contraction — [‘Auxiliary + Not’]
  • Short (Contracted)) Form of ‘am not’ ⇒ amn’t [This form is rarely used]
  • Short (Contracted) Form of ‘is not’ ⇒ isn’t
Examples [Contracted form of ‘Auxiliary + Not’] include:
  • Amn’t I learning a new programming language?
  • Isn’t he/she learning a new programming language?
  • Aren’t we/you/they/ learning a new programming language?
Important Hint 

Never use ‘Auxiliary + Not’ before Subject. The contracted form of ‘Auxiliary + Not’ is to be used before subject.

    You cannot say:
  • Am not I talking?
  • Is not he/she learning…?
  • Are not we/you/they learning…?
  • [These are wrong]
    You should say:
  • Amn’t I talking?
  • Isn’t he/she learning…?
  • Aren’t we/you/they learning…?
  • [These are correct]
Use of Interrogative Word:

The structure, interrogative word + am/is/are + subject + not + –ing form of verb, is used.

    Examples include:

  • Why am I not learning…?
  • Why is he/she not learning…?
  • Why are we/you/they not learning…?
Examples [Contracted Form of ‘Auxiliary + Not’ include:
  • Why amn’t I learning…?
  • Why isn’t he/she learning…?
  • Why aren’t we/you/they learning…?

Note that the Interrogatives are rarely used in formal contexts. Chances are you will seldom have needs to use them.

    The Four Aspects of Present Tense
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