English grammar tenses may seem tricky in use until you learn how to see the differences between them. Sometimes, they overlap with each other in meaning, however, in such cases don’t worry – people should understand what you mean.
Nevertheless, find out about the basics below and try to follow the rules. Doing so you will be sure the tense is right, and your sentences will have the meaning you wish for.
How to compose sentences in the present continuous?
This tense is always composed of a suitable form of the verb “to be”, placed after the subject, and the gerund (which is a form of any verb with the “-ing” suffix added).
For example, “I am speaking” is an activity that is taking place at present, and seems to be a continuous activity.
“I speak” would suggest that speaking happens once or regularly, but not in a continuous way.
Negative forms are composed in a similar way, with the word “not” inserted before the gerund.
For example, “I am not sleeping” suggests the subject is not sleeping at the moment.
Questions are composed by switching places of the subject and the predicate (“to be”), with the gerund following as before.
For example, by asking “Are you eating?” a person wants to know whether another person is currently busy with eating something.
How to use the present continuous?
The present continuous tense is mostly used to speak about the present. In specific cases, it can be used to speak about the future or the past – we’ll get to that later.
In majority of cases, this tense is used to express:
- something that is taking place at the moment of speaking:
- He is listening to some music.
- We are having dinner.
- They are singing perfectly.
- something that is planned for the future:
- I am going out tonight.
- She is leaving for London tomorrow.
- They are arriving at noon.
This tense may also be used speak about:
- something that is happening before and after a specific point in time:
- At 5 o’clock they are drinking tea.
- We are sleeping at midnight.
- I am bathing right now.
- something which seems to be temporary:
- He is staying for the night.
- I am working this evening.
- The kids are playing for now.
- something that is new:
- People are now using smartphones to search the Internet.
- Why do people wear bandanas all of a sudden?
- The market crashed, and people are losing money.
- something which is changing or growing or evolving:
- The climate is changing.
- Your English is improving.
- This plant is growing so fast.
- something that is happening again and again, perhaps with annoying regularity:
- You are always forgetting your keys.
- It is always raining here.
- I am always losing in chess.
This tense may also be used while telling a story or giving an account of a book, a movie or a play.
When the present continuous should not be used?
It is not the right choice when speaking of something that happens regularly or periodically or has just occurred and it is no more. Also, it is not used with the verbs connected to thinking and feeling, such as: believe, dislike, know, like, love, hate, prefer, realise, recognise, remember, suppose, think (in the sense of to believe), understand, want, wish.
Other verbs that should not be used with present tense include: appear, feel, look, seem, smell, sound, taste (which are all verbs related to senses) and agree, be, belong, disagree, need, owe, own, possess (except that “to be” is sometimes used in present to express a state person is in). These verbs are used in the present simple, if you want to speak about the present.
How to be sure the present continuous is the right choice?
If you want to express something that happens at the moment or the nature of such activity is continuous or you are simply telling a story, you may be pretty sure you want the present continuous tense to appear in the sentence.
If there is a verb related to thinking, feeling or sensing anything, it is most likely that present simple is a better choice.
Remember that and your communication level will improve, and using the correct tense will help you speak clearly!
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