Present Progressive

What is Present Progressive?

We use verb tenses to indicate the time and aspect of when an action, event, or condition occurs. The present progressive or present continuous tense conveys actions and events that are currently taking place. This blog will give a breakdown of the rules, uses, and concepts surrounding the present progressive tense, including tons of examples and conjugations in various sentence structures. 

First, let’s look at the general formula or structure of the present progressive tense:

Subject + am/is/are + present participle (-ing form) + Rest of the sentence

The present progressive tense is formed by using the auxiliary or helping verbs am, is, or are. Let’s take a look at the following examples:

1. Roger is mowing the lawn at the moment.
2. The children are doing their homework in the living room.
3. Are they putting up decorations in the living room?
4. What are they cooking in the kitchen?
5. I‘m not editing Celine’s video right now.

Present Progressive Uses and Rules

In this segment, we will look at two tables that list the rules and uses of the present progressive tense. In the following table, let’s look at the breakdown of how the present progressive’s many uses:

Actions happening currently (now, at the time of speaking)– She is listening to Miley’s new song.
Are they watching a movie now?
– Zaynab is carrying the bucket.
Plans in the near future (using “-be going to”)– They are going to parasail tomorrow.
– We are going to talk to the teacher.
– She is going to have sushi with her friends.
Plans in the near future (using time expressions: tonight, tomorrow, this week, etc.)– They‘re having a small get-together at Rianne’s tonight.
– Her family is leaving for Rome in two days.
– Mike is recording audio samples this week.
Actions that are temporary– They are staying at The Savoy.
– I am working part-time at the florist this summer.
– She is living with us for the time being.
  Repeated actions, which usually carry a connotation (using time expressions: always or forever)  – Shaley is always initiating drama.
– Eileen is forever complaining about her clients.
– They are always leaving trash everywhere they go.
Table for Present Progressive Uses and Rules

The following rules are followed when using the present progressive tense in different sentence structures:

(Important: Native English speakers normally use the contractions “isn’t” and “aren’t” in conversation or informal settings. We’ll use these contractions in some of the following present progressive tense formulas. Spelling the contractions out is also correct, but this is more commonly used in academic or professional settings.)

Sentence StructureFormulaExamples
NegativeSubject + isn’t/aren’t + present participle (-ing form) + Rest of the sentence.– You aren’t going out dressed like that, young lady.
– I‘m not listening to your caterwauling.
– He isn’t attending the team-building event this weekend.
InterrogativeIs/Are + Subject + present participle (-ing form) + Rest of the sentence?Is Lekka playing basketball in the backyard?
Are they singing this song for us?
Is he waiting for his girlfriend outside the restaurant?
Interrogative NegativeIsn’t/Aren’t + Subject + present participle (-ing form) + Rest of the sentence?Aren’t you going to come over to Bailey’s tonight?
– Isn’t Kamala speaking at the recognition ceremony?
Aren’t they washing the car at the moment?
Interrogative with Question WordQuestion word + is/are+ Subject + present participle (-ing form) + rest of the sentence?Who is Layla talking to on the phone?
How are they traveling with all this snow?
Where are you staying in Cane Town?
Table for Present Progressive Formulas
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Examples of Present Progressive Tense Verbs

1. Affirmative Sentence

  • Yoona is calling the police at this very second. 
  • Bogum is looking for his bracelet on the wet grass. 
  • They are completing the posters in the computer lab.
  • Cleese and Jill are crouching under the dinner table.
  • The kindergarten students are gathering around a small turtle.

2. Negative Sentence

  • Nico isn’t staring at the football field.
  • Our cat isn’t prowling on the roof tonight.
  • We aren’t camping in Mount Patag this Friday.
  • Beavis isn’t opening the door despite our pleas.
  • The managers aren’t extending the deadline for the contest.

3. Interrogative (affirmative)

  • Are they singing karaoke again? It’s not even evening yet.
  • Is Hannah using the headphones that we got her?
  • Is Carl performing with his band downtown?
  • Are the patients sitting in the waiting area in this heat?
  • Are they fixing the broken parts of the fence? 

4. Interrogative (negative)

  • Aren’t we watching a movie in the afternoon?
  • Isn’t she using the wifi in the house?
  • Aren’t the guys cracking open a bottle of Scotch?
  • Isn’t he smoking outside on the balcony?
  • Aren’t you downloading the files to the company folder?

5. Interrogative (with Question Words)

  • Why is George writing an email to HR?
  • Where are they planning to hold the camp for Spanish speakers?
  • When are the non-native speakers organizing a study group?
  • What is she saying? I can barely hear her.
  • Why are we entertaining their sudden sense of immediacy?
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Present Progressive Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Present Progressive

Change the verbs in parentheses into their correct present progressive form to complete the sentences.

1. The kids ____________________ (help) their mother with the decorations.

2. Jake will be all right. He ____________________ (rest) right now.

3. Yes, Grandpa ____________________ (cook) lunch for us.

4. The boys ____________________ (trade) Marvel cards in the living room.

5. A bee ____________________ (buzz) about the garden,

6. The panel ____________________ (answer) questions at the annual summit.

7. Look at him! He ____________________ (run) across the field with superhuman speed.

8. We ____________________ (work) on a simulation for people who snore.

9. I ____________________ (scroll) through the pictures.

10. Jin and Allen ____________________ (recreate) their first date.


1. The kids are helping their mother with the decorations.

2. Jake will be all right. He is resting right now.

3. Yes, Grandpa is cooking lunch for us.

4. The boys are trading Marvel cards in the living room.

5. A bee is buzzing about the garden,

6. The panel is answering questions at the annual summit.

7. Look at him! He is running across the field with superhuman speed.

8. We are working on a simulation for people who snore.

9. I am scrolling through the pictures.

10. Jin and Allen are recreating their first date.

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Present Progressive List

Below is a list of more examples of present progressive tense according to its uses:

Ongoing actions

  • The big bosses are negotiating with the board.
  • She is ordering another wig online.
  • They are paving 5th avenue right this second.
  • My mother is sewing a dress from scratch.
  • Katrina is typing very quickly to finish her notes.

Future Plans (with -be going to)

  • We are going to play hide-and-seek in the abandoned mansion.
  • Jamie is going to jog early tomorrow morning.
  • My boyfriend and I are going to surprise my sister with a plane ticket.
  • They are going to spend their honeymoon in the French countryside.
  • Bon is going to start learning Korean before her relocation.

Future plans (with time expressions)

  • We are joining them in the pool after this.
  • I am meeting the girls for brunch in the old quarter.
  • Sorry but I am not washing the dishes tonight.
  • Nobody is working tomorrow. There’s a blizzard.
  • Dev is preparing for her interview this weekend.

Temporary actions (time, conditional, and purpose)

  • Sharon is doing a charity gig for two weeks.
  • Her parents are living in her condominium for now.
  • The family is staying in a motel off the highway.
  • The crocodile is lounging in the swamp.
  • I am working here for the entire duration of the festival.

Repeated Actions

  • Riega is always talking about her ex-boyfriend.
  • She is forever searching for Mr. Right.
  • They are always screaming in the wee hours.
  • Dennis is always snoring and I can’t stand it anymore.
  • Jones is forever using ketchup with his steak.

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Studying verb tenses can be confusing and disheartening at times, mostly because there are a dozen of them, each with its own set of conjugations and functions. Tenses indicate activities, events, states of being, or conditions as they happen at different points in time. The three main tenses are present, past, and future, as you may already know. In addition, each of them is classified with 4 different aspects, namely the simple tense, continuous or progressive tense, perfect tense, and perfect continuous or progressive tense. Not only that, but some verbs look the same, though each conjugation corresponds to specific rules. A strong understanding of each function is needed to achieve mastery.

Utilizing the correct tenses contributes to fluency. You can tell a story or offer an explanation accurately. For example, the sentences “She is dancing”, “She danced”, and “She will dance” have different meanings. First, “is dancing” signifies an action that’s occurring at this instant. Second, “danced” expresses an action that’s already finished. Lastly, “will dance” refers to an action that has yet to happen.

In everyday conversations, native speakers only use 4 tenses: the 3 simple tenses (simple present, simple past, and simple future) and the present continuous or present progressive tense. It doesn’t mean that other tenses aren’t don’t play important roles. They are commonly used in academic and professional contexts, so studying them is beneficial to your language journey.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand tenses of verbs, past progressive and present progressive.

Common Errors Made by English Learners

Many English students struggle when speaking for a long time, i.e telling a story or explaining something. The most common mistake they make with verbs is mixing tenses in a narrative. The main reasons for this are first, English language learners are using direct translations from their mother tongue (take note that some foreign languages don’t conjugate verbs, perhaps including yours); second, they’ve sustained habits in speaking that are grammatically incorrect. Third, their proficiency isn’t enough to spot their own mistakes. Most errors that English language learners struggle with stem from using the wrong conjugation. Study the following list to avoid following or making similar mistakes.

Common ErrorsCorrect FormReason
They calling the doctor.They are calling the doctor.The present progressive tense needs an auxiliary or helping verb.
Where they are staying right now?Where are they staying right now.The subject (they) and the auxiliary verb (be) switch positions in questions.
Do they listening to her?Are they listening to her?We don’t use the word “do” with present participles. 
They are feeling it.They feel it.Stative verbs such as believe, feel, hate, like, etc. are not used in progressive tenses. You may hear them used this way in informal conversations. But they are still considered incorrect in standard or academic English.
Present Progressive Common Errors Table
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Learning Strategies and Best Practices with the Present Progressive Tense

The skinny of mastering the present progressive tense is as follows:

  • Learning the basic rules of the present progressive or continuous form.
  • Using what you’ve learned in regular English conversations.
  • Be aware of the usual errors to avoid making the same ones.
Learning StrategiesExplanation
Language ListsLearning tools like grammar lists, tables, and charts can present grammatical subjects in a comprehensive manner. These resources are invaluable. They can help maximize learning during self-study sessions, not only because they’re usually broken down into their fundamental concepts but they’re also quite convenient when you need to make comparisons, check references, and review materials quickly.
Language ExposureThe best way to see how native speakers use the English language in different situations and for different needs is through exposure to audio and video materials. These resources will easily broaden your background knowledge in both professional and conversational English. They are invaluable for vocabulary building and improving your fluency. It’s highly suggested to use audiovisual tools purposefully, which means you should actively listen and take notes on pronunciation and articulation. For example, many English students can attest to achieving advanced proficiency by mimicking how actors talk and speak in TV shows.
Language ExchangeMany English language learners accomplish advanced skills in grammar but can’t hold conversations. If you don’t make an effort to talk in English at every opportunity, fluency will take that much longer to achieve. Language theory without practical use is extremely limiting and can exist only in the domain of reading and writing. Talk whenever you have the chance, both with native and non-native English speakers. Keep an open mind regarding the errors you make and avoid repeating them. 
Present Progressive Learning Strategies Table

Present Progressive Tense Frequently Asked Questions

These are verbs that express states or conditions and not actions. For example, verbs such as imagine, guess, know, remember and doubt signify thoughts and opinions. Meanwhile, words such as see, hear, seem, appear, and be relate to senses and perceptions. Additionally, verbs such as love, hate, like, prefer, and want talk about feelings and emotions. None of these words are action words.

As a grammar rule, stative verbs aren’t used in the present progressive, but of late it has become acceptable in spoken English. You may hear things such as “I am loving the vibe.” or “Are we hating on her ex-boyfriend?” These are okay in casual conversation but are still incorrect in academic or business English.

It’s easy to spot. The difference between the two tenses relies on their auxiliary verbs. The present progressive tense uses “is/am/are.” Meanwhile, the past progressive uses their past counterparts “was/were”.

Knowing the conjugations of present past future tense words is crucial to improve your proficiency in English. Take a look at each example of the past present and future tense:

Present: I walk to work. She doesn’t eat breakfast. He drives to school.
Past: I walked to work. She didn’t eat breakfast. He drove to school.
Future: I will walk to work. She won’t eat breakfast. He will drive to school.

For more examples of past present future words, our blog has more pages with different emphases in tenses. Or you can review this article in full and take notes from all sentences it contains.

Their similar-sounding names may be confusing, but it’s not all that difficult to recognize the difference.

Obviously, they won’t have two distinctive names or labels if they have the same function. The present progressive tense uses the helping verbs “am/is/are” while the present perfect continuous tense uses the helping or auxiliary verb “has been”. The meaning is also different.

While they both indicate the ongoing nature of an action in the present, the main focus of the present progressive tense is that the action is taking place now. On the other hand, the definition of present perfect continuous tense emphasizes when the action started.

1. Look for comprehensive reference materials such as the blog to learn the functions and conjugations of all 12 tenses.

2. Have a personalized vocabulary notebook that you will use exclusively to record new vocabulary and expressions.

3. For practice, consider teaming up with someone or organizing a study group. An exercise on tenses can have you and your partner tell a personal story in its present, past, and future versions. You can also pretend to be on a talk show and take turns asking each other questions.

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