Present continuous – progressive

(Explanation how to use the continuous form of the present in English)

When is the present continuous used?

The present continuous (sometimes also called present progressive) stands for actions and processes that are still ongoing (that have not stopped yet) in the present. These actions may take place at the time of speaking or around it – which means over a longer period of time. Compare the following possibilities:

  • The present continuous or progressive is used in these distinct cases:
    • It expresses actions that are taking place at the time of speaking. Words that indicate this type of use (occasionally called signal words) are: ‘at the moment, now, Listen!, Look!’:
      • “My sister is watching TV at the moment.”
      • Look! The cats are chasing a mouse.”
    • It is also used for actions that are taking place over a fixed period of time (but not at the time of speaking):
      • “Sabrina is reading an interesting book over the holidays.”
      • “They’re building a new house at the end of the road.”
      • “I’m working at a cinema this month.”
    • You can also use the present continuous for things that have been arranged or planned for the future:
      • “We are going on vacation to Venice next Saturday.”
      • “I’m playing golf this evening.”
    • It can express general changes that are taking place at the moment, things that are developing or growing for example:
      • Is her Spanish getting better?”
      • “More and more people are using the Internet to get useful information.”
    • If the speaker wants to express something that he or she does not like or is complaining about, the present continuous can also be employed (in this case it is usually used with adverbs of frequency such as ‘always’ or ‘constantly’):
      • “She’s constantly complaining about her teachers.”
      • “You’re always leaving the door open.”

What is the rule for conjugation of the present continuous?

The formation of the present continuous is based on the conjugated form of the auxiliary ‘to be’ in the present tense (which is ‘am, is’ or ‘are’) and the infinitive (base form) of the corresponding verb with ‘-ing’ added to its end. In simple words, it is commonly called ing-form.

Rule for conjugation of the present progressive

Conjugated form of ‘to be’ + base form (infinitive) + ‘-ing

Verb forms of ‘to be’ combined with the ing-form

Example verbs: ‘to do, to drink, to look

Person Regular form Short form Infinitive + ‘-ing’
I am I’m doing
he/she/it is he’s / she’s / it’s drinking
we/you/they are we’re / you’re / they’re looking


Mind that some verbs change their spelling when ‘-ing’ is added to their end. Letters may be omitted or doubled. Examples:

  • Omission of ‘e’ in ‘to drive’:
    • “Sam is driving his new car.”
  • Duplication of the ‘t’ in ‘to quit’:
    • “I’m quitting my job tomorrow.”

Info: More details on the topic you will find in the explanation for using and forming the present participle (ing-form).

Further explanations relating to the ‘Present progressive/continuous’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Present continuous’ and may be helpful: