Comparison of simple and continuous

(Juxtaposition of forms: simple and continuous/progressive)

Table of contents – simple and continuous

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Characteristics of the forms
  2. Particularities
  3. Further explanations and exercises

What characteristics distinguish the simple form from the continuous form?

On the one hand, English grammar has a simple form of the verb, which is referred to as the standard form because it appears far more common. On the other hand, the progressive form is a characteristic of the English language and typically ends in the suffix ‘-ing’. For reasons of simplicity, it is called ing form. The correct term, however, is progressive or continuous (see details on meaning and naming).

Information: With the continuous form, English grammar combines verb tense and aspect (What does aspect mean?). In other languages such as German, on the contrary, there are only verbs in the standard form (corresponding to the English simple form). Ongoing processes are expressed by other means, like adverbs, for example.

Direct comparison of both forms

Note that both verb forms always appear together with a tense (see the section below the table). Although each tense has its peculiarities, you can differentiate these characteristics:

Simple form
(non-progressive form)
Continuous form
(progressive form)

Verb form:

  • is either identical with the infinitive (go = we go),
  • ends in ‘-s’ or ‘-ed’ (walks, walked),
  • or has special forms (went, gone)

Verb form:

  • ends in ‘-ing’ in all cases (going, walking)
  • requires ‘to be’ as an auxiliary verb before it (is going, were walking)


  • regular and recurring events
  • static things
  • dynamic processes


  • current actions
  • dynamic processes

Type of verbs:

  • dynamic (process) verbs
  • static verbs

Type of verbs:

  • usually only dynamic (process) verbs

Particularities of simple and continuous in the tenses

The characteristics mentioned above for differentiating between simple/continuous are universally applicable. Certain verb tenses deviate somewhat from them for reasons of meaning. Thus, each tense has its particularities. Compare the juxtapositions of the individual tenses in detail:

Furthermore, there are tenses that express the perfect aspect as well as the progressive aspect:

Explanations relating to the ‘Comparison of simple and continuous’

The following explanations refer to the topic ‘Direct juxtaposition of the characteristics of simple and progressive/continuous in English grammar’ and are helpful too: