Present Progressive

The Present Progressive Tense with Examples

The Present progressive tense (or present continuous tense, as it's also known) 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.
What's this?
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.

Other Uses of Present Progressive Tense.

1.  Using present progressive to express future plans:
If we want to, we can use present progressive to express plans in the future. Although it can’t be used for all future actions; it can only be used for plans.

See Practical Examples:
  • Eric and Moore are going to have a party next Friday.
  • Eric and Moore are having a party next Friday.
  • (Both sentences mean the same thing; they show a future plan.)
  • I’m going to go to Hawaii next summer.
  • I’m going to Hawaii next summer.
  • (Both sentences mean the same thing; they show a future plan.)
  • Ricky and Lucy will get married in July.
  • Ricky and Lucy are getting married in July.
  • (Both sentences mean the same thing; they show a future plan.)
    BUT:
  • I think it is raining tomorrow.
  • I think it will rain tomorrow.
  • (Rain is not something that we can plan, so we can’t use present progressive.)

1.   Present Progressive can also be used with simple present to show “This action happens over time”

Usually present progressive shows that an action is happening right now, but it can also be used with simple presentOpens in new window to show that an action happens over time when the other action happens.

That sounds a little tricky; so let’s look at some examples which can help make it clearer.

Example #1
  • Every day when Gretchen gets home, her roommate is studying English.
  • In this sentence, is studying (present progressive) doesn’t mean that the action is happening right now. It means that the action is happening over time everyday when Gretchen gets home.

    In other words, the roommate starts to study before Gretchen gets home, and the roommate is still studying when Gretchen arrives. This is very similar to the way we usually use past progressiveOpens in new window

If we use simple presentOpens in new window instead of present progressive in this case, the meaning is different:

    Example #2
  • Every day when Gretchen gets home, her roommate studies English.
  • In this sentence, Gretchen’s roommate always starts to study at about the same time (and a little bit after) Gretchen gets home. This is different from Example #1, in which the roommate always starts studying before Gretchen arrives.

Exception

The one exception I can think of is the verb be. When we use be in this type of sentence, it can have two meanings:

For example:
  • Every day when Gretchen gets home, her roommate is in the kitchen.
  • (This means that the roommate went into the kitchen before Gretchen got home.)
For example:
  • Every day when Gretchen gets home, her roommate is really happy to see her.
  • (This sentence means that the roommate became happy at about the same time Gretchen got home.)

So, you’re probably wondering, “How do I know when be has the first meaning and when it has the second meaning?” As far as I can tell, the only way to know is context. You just have to look at the situation and guess what the speaker means.

2.   Present progressive (and other progressive tenses) can be used for temporary habits.

Present progressive can show a temporary habit in the present. When you first started to study verb tenses, you probably learned that we use simple present for present habits and present progressive for actions that are happening right now (actions still in progress).

But we also use Present Progressive (and sometimes the other progressive tenses) to show temporary habits.

If the present habit is temporary, we show this by using present progressive instead of simple present.

Examples include:
  • Usually I drive to school, but this semester I take the metro bus.
  • Usually I drive to school, but this semester I’m taking the metro bus.
  • (Present progressive shows that the habit is temporary. I’ll probably start driving again sometime in the future.)
  • Because it’s Lent, Luiz and Maya eat fish instead of meat.
  • Because it’s Lent, Luiz and Maya are eating fish instead of meat.

    →(Present progressive shows that the habit is temporary. It suggests that Luiz and Maya will start eating meat again when Lent is finished.)
  • It’s Ramadan, so Saido and Muhammed fast every day from sunrise to sunset.
  • It’s Ramadan, so Saido and Muhammed are fasting every day from sunrise to sunset.
  • (Present progressive shows that the habit is temporary. It suggests that Saido and Muhammed will stop fasting when Ramadan ends.)
    The Four Aspects of Present Tense
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