Present Continuous Tense: Examples, Definition, Use, Formula, Structure, Rules and Exercises for English Learners

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Learning English is a complex task. As such, the method is studying one component after the other. Think of climbing the stairs. After mastering one language component, you step up to the next. There are eight parts of speech in the English language, and verbs or action words are one of those.

Under the umbrella of verbs, we have tenses, which encompass the time when an action happens. Branching out, there are twelve types of tenses in English grammar. One of those is the present continuous tense. It describes events happening now, frequently, and may continue in the future.

English language learners often find mastering the rules overwhelming. But with the student-friendly material, understanding the definition, sentence structures, and uses would be easy. In this blog, you will learn those concepts through the present continuous tense examples and exercises to check your understanding.

What is the Definition and Meaning of Present Continuous Tense?

Three types of actions define the present continuous or progressive tense.

  • First, it shows actions or events happening now. For example, if you are talking to your mother right now, you say, “I am talking with my mother.” When you want to inform your mother that your brother is currently doing his chores, you say, My brother is doing his chores as we speak.”
  • Second, the present continuous tense definition also states that it describes ongoing actions or conditions. For instance, you are observing people at the mall. You can say that “A child is crying because his parents didn’t buy him ice cream.” We don’t know when the child will stop crying. Thus, the action is continuous or ongoing in the present. Another present continuous tense example is: “The citizens are voting for the national election.” It shows that the citizens are currently voting until the schedule for the event ends.
  • Third, the rule of present continuous depicts present actions that happen frequently. We use adverbs to show frequency. The common adverbs used are: always, sometimes, never, usually, and often. Here are the present continuous tense sentences showing frequency: (1) I am never eating broccoli again. (2) Tom is always arriving earlier than usual. (3) They are often working at the café on weekends.

As observed with the examples above, the present continuous use of the “be verbs” am, is, and are to express that the actions are happening now. The “be verbs” join or connect the subject to the verb. Furthermore, the set of rules to follow in using “be verbs” is called the subject-verb agreement. Learn more about the present continuous tense examples in this blog.

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How should English Learners best study and learn the proper usage of Present Continuous Tense?

Learning the present continuous tense structure is best done by active study. Therefore, the students must engage with the material to best understand and improve retention of topics. Merely reading or listening to a lecture will not be enough.

To start, English learners must always have note-taking materials. It could be the traditional pen and paper or using laptops and tablets. Taking down key concepts, rules, sentence formulas, and examples is a form of active study. In the process of writing, the cognitive function of the students helps them memorize the pointers of the topic.

In addition, summarizing a language topic after reading or listening to it contributes to a better understanding of the lesson. A learner can create a bulleted list, sentence templates, or a table of present continuous tense rules with examples.

Lastly, assessment plays an important role in the learning process. English language learners must not avoid taking quizzes or exams to test their knowledge. Through taking tests, one can know which grammar rule they understand best and which requires more effort for them to study.

Below is a present continuous tense chart you can print as your study guide:

Present Continuous Tense Examples and Rules
Present Continuous Tense RulesExamples of Present Continuous Tense
Shows actions or events happening nowI am listing my favorite websites for learning English.
He is buying coffee and a muffin.
We are moving the furniture.
Describes ongoing actions or conditionsI am sending my lessons by email.
The manager is presenting his firm plan to the team.
My mother and I are cooking carbonara for dinner.
Depicts present actions that happen frequentlyI am usually reading books when I have free time.
She is sometimes picking flowers in my garden.
His brothers are always attending band rehearsals.

How Do You Use the Present Continuous Tense?

The present continuous sentence uses auxiliary verbs or the “be verbs” am, is, and are and the “-ing form” or present participle form of the verb. Verbs in the present participle is conjugated by adding “-ing” at the end of the main verb. Examples are:

  • talk – talking
  • dance – dancing
  • play – playing
  • count – counting
  • sell – selling
  • drink – drinking
  • review – reviewing
  • ask – asking
  • fold – folding
  • measure – measuring

To use the present continuous tense correctly, learners need to know the subject-verb agreement and the difference between dynamic and stative verbs.

Subject-Verb Agreement

The main principle of the subject-verb agreement is that: singular subjects take singular verbs, and plural subjects follow plural verbs. It means one subject uses the singular helping verbs (am and is). Meanwhile, sentences with more than one subject take the plural “be verb” are.

  • The pronoun “I” is always followed by the helping verb “am”.
  • Singular pronouns “he,”she,”her,”his,” “you,” and “it” takes the singular “be verb” is.
  • Singular nouns such as sister, friend, pet, a pack of wolves, and teacher uses “is”.
  • Plural pronouns “we” and “they” take the plural “be verb” are.
  • Plural nouns like children, men, countries, fishes, and families use are.

Dynamic Verbs vs Stative Verbs

The present continuous tenses show actions in progress or happening now. As such, it requires verbs that indicate action or process. There are two types of verbs to consider when writing correct present continuous sentences: dynamic and stative verbs.

A dynamic verb shows a process. It demonstrates that the subject of the sentence is doing the action in progress or now. Therefore, dynamic verbs are the appropriate verbs to use in stating present continuous or progressive events. To know if a verb is dynamic, it must imply that the action will end after some time. For example:

1. A pack of wolves is walking across the forest to search for food. (They are doing the process of walking until they find food.)

2. I am reviewing my lessons. (I will finish the process of reviewing after some time.)

3. The dog and the cat are sleeping under the table. (The dog and cat will finish the process of sleeping when they wake up.)

In contrast, stative verbs express a state rather than an action. They refer to thoughts and opinions (agree, believe, doubt, understand, and think), senses and perceptions (look, appear, hear, state, and smell), and feelings and emotions (hate, want, dislike, love, and want). Observe the following sentences:

1. I am appearing to be happy today. (✕ present continuous)
I appear to be happy today. (✓ simple present)

2. Kelly is doubting his statements. (✕ present continuous)
Kelly doubts his statement. (✓ simple present)

3. We are disliking this movie. (✕ present continuous)
We dislike this movie. (✓ simple present)

Those sentences may sound correct but the verbs used are not time-bound. The highlighted portions are incorrect verb forms. Therefore, stative verbs are best used in the simple present tense.

Here is the present continuous tense 10 sentences example:

1. I am traveling to Greece.
2. It is raining hard this morning.
3. Liz and her sister are counting sheep to fall asleep.
4. She is adding water to the fish tank.
5. The carpenters are building a new house.
6. An army of soldiers is marching around their barracks.
7. We are helping our friend find an apartment.
8. His father is running for vice mayor of the city.
9. I am dividing the cake into ten slices.
10. You are boiling five eggs.

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Structure of the Present Continuous Tense

The present continuous tense sentence structure consists of the “be verbs” am, is, and are. Aside from that, the main verbs follow the past participle form with the formula verb + ing.

What is the Present Continuous Tense formula?

The affirmative or positive sentences formula of present continuous is:

Present Continuous Tense Formula
Subject + (am, is, are) + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence

What is the structure of the Present Continuous Tense?

PositiveNegativeInterrogativeNegative InterrogativeWH Questions
Subject + (am, is, are) + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentenceSubject + (am, is, are) + not + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence(Am, Is, Are) + Subject + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence(Am, Is, Are) + Subject + not + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentenceWH Questions + (am, is, are) + Subject + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence
I am dancing with him.

She is closing the gate.

They are sweeping the sidewalk.

The dog is barking at the stranger.

Vina and Louie are filming in Venice.
I am not dancing with him.

She is not closing the gate.

They are not sweeping the sidewalk.

The dog is not barking at the stranger.

Vina and Louie are not filming in Venice.
Am I dancing with him?

Is she closing the gate?

Are they sweeping the sidewalk?

Is the dog barking at the stranger?

Are Vina and Louie are filming in Venice?
Am I not dancing with him?

Is she not closing the gate?

Are they not sweeping the sidewalk?

Is the dog not barking at the stranger?

Are Vina and Louie not filming in Venice?
Who am I dancing with tonight?

What is she closing?

Where are they sweeping?

Why is the dog not barking at the stranger?

When are Vina and Louie filming in Venice?

What are Present Continuous Tense uses?

The present continuous or progressive tense shows actions happening right now, ongoing events, and frequent occurrences. There are five uses of present continuous tense.

1. Show unfinished actions happening at the moment

The present continuous verb form is used to narrate or show actions as it happens at the moment. As such, it is implied that it is not yet completed. The example of present continuous tense sentences following this function are:

  • I am delivering a tub of chicken curry to my friend.
  • The teacher is discussing present continuous examples to her students.
  • We are baking cookies for the charity event.
  • Leo is asking for a letter of recommendation from his professor.
  • My friends are shopping for kitchenware.

2. Describe temporary conditions or situations

A subject may not be doing an action in a moment but its condition or situation remains true in the present. As such, we use present continuous when giving information about something that is not permanent. It could be about living or working conditions.

  • I am renting an apartment with my sister.
  • My sister is completing her associate’s degree in marketing.
  • The dogs are staying in the cage until I dog-proof the house.
  • Lilly is working as a part-time barista.
  • Her cousins are paying their debts until December.

3. Convey frequency of actions or habits

To show how often an action happens, we use adverbs of frequency. The structure of present continuous tense when using adverbs is: Subject + (am, is, are) + adverb + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence.

  • I am always visiting my grandmother.
  • Lena is never reciting in class.
  • He is occasionally preparing sushi for a snack.
  • A flock of pigeons is sometimes eating on his bird feeder.
  • His parents are often changing their Wi-Fi password.

4. Express future plans or intentions

Although the present continuous talks about “now,” it is also used to set plans and intentions. To do so, add a time reference, phrase, or expression in the sentence.

  • I am leaving the office at 2 pm.
  • She is cleaning the bathroom tomorrow.
  • Dave and Jenny are starting a business soon.
  • Lea, along with her classmates, is writing their research on Saturday.
  • The families are enrolling their children at the Montessori school next year.
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Present Continuous Tense Sentence Examples

Here are 25 present continuous tense examples:

Present Continuous Tense Affirmative Sentence Examples

1. I am canceling my appointment due to an emergency.

2. Tad is frying the meatballs and not baking them.

3. She is printing the documents.

4. We are experiencing gloomy weather until this next week.

5. John is collecting antique tables.

Present Continuous Tense Negative Sentence Examples

6. I am not parking my car here.

7. It is not snowing this November.

8. The cats are not scratching the sofa.

9. My brother is not yelling at you.

10. We are not changing our stand regarding the issue.

Present Continuous Tense Interrogative Sentence Examples

11. Am I shopping for new clothes tomorrow?

12. Is Angela breaking off the lease?

13. Are the students studying the present continuous tense rule?

14. Is she crying because of you?

15. Are Mike and Jason recycling their plastic waste?

Present Continuous Tense Negative Interrogative Sentences Examples

16. Am I not comparing products before deciding which one to buy?

17. Is the number of students not returning the borrowed books?

18. Are children not swimming at the pool right now?

19. Is the flight attendant not giving out free coffee?

20. Are the tourists not visiting the shrine tomorrow?

Present Continuous Tense WH Questions Examples

21. Who am I bringing with me to the concert?

22. When is Ben arriving at the airport?

23. What are you wearing to the event tonight?

24. Where is she residing after she graduates?

25. Why are the kids complaining about eating vegetables?

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What are Common Mistakes English Students make when learning to use Present Continuous Verbs & Words?

Making mistakes are normal when learning any language. But they can be avoidable. There are three common mistakes English students make in using the present continuous tense.

1. Using Stative Verbs

Students often forget to differentiate stative from dynamic verbs. Aside from that, stative verbs can be tricky to identify. For example, we discussed above that “appear” is a stative verb. However, it can be a dynamic verb if it means “play a character” instead of “look like something to someone.”

(a) Phoebe Waller-Bridge is appearing as Fleabag’s main character. (✓ dynamic present continuous)

(b) Phoebe is appearing sad about the play lately. (✕ stative, rewrite in simple present tense)

“Appearing” in the first sentences shows that the action is time-bound because Phoebe is only the main character until the show ends. Meanwhile, the verb in the second sentence describes a state instead of an action. As such, express it as, “Phoebe appears sad about the play lately.”

2. Incorrect Subject-verb Agreement

One of the challenging grammar rules is subject-verb agreement. Students often use incorrect verbs when using written or spoken English. The “be verbs” “is” and “are” should not be used interchangeably — “is” for singular and “are” for plural subjects. The confusion starts when the subject is a collective noun or an indefinite pronoun. A collective noun is a group of people, animals, or things. Examples are a board of directors, a panel of judges, a swarm of bees, a colony of ants, a fleet of ships, and a bunch of grapes. Remember that collective noun are generally singular.

Meanwhile, indefinite pronouns do not refer to anything or anyone in particular. Examples of plural indefinite pronouns are both, many, few, several, and others. Singular indefinite pronouns include anything, each, everything, everybody, somebody, anyone, and everything.

3. Confusing Simple Present Tense with Present Continuous Verb Aspect

Students sometimes interchange the simple present and the present continuous. Both aspects happen in the present. However, the present continuous implies that although the action is happening now, it will soon finish, end, or complete. Thus, an event continues or progresses until a period of time. Study the present continuous tense sentences examples below:

1. I am eating lunch at the restaurant. (I will eat until I finish the food.)

2. A panel of judges is standing to grade the ballroom dancers. (The panel will continue to stand until the grading ends.)

3. Both Paul and James are carrying the bag of sand. (They will carry it until they reach their destination.)

As observed in the sentences above, the present continuous rule implies that the action is not happening forever.

How Can Language Learners Avoid Making Common Mistakes?

The primary step learners can do to avoid common mistakes is to study English grammar methodologically. It is important to learn the individual parts of speech to know their functions before moving to create sentences and paragraphs. One concept builds upon the other — knowing nouns and pronouns will make it easier for you to master plural and singular verbs.

As for identifying stative verbs, one trick is to ask yourself “until when will this verb end?” For instance, “Mae is believing her.” Until when will Mae believe her? The answer is not implied in the sentence because “is believing” shows a state and not a process. It can be transformed in the simple present tense as, “Mae believes her.”

Since there are twelve verb tenses, it is normal for students to be confused. To set apart simple present from present continuous tense, note that the latter uses the present participle of the verb. Meanwhile, the simple tense has the main form of the verb plus “s” or “es” for singular subjects.

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The Present Continuous Tense: Checking Your Understanding

Below we have provided present continuous tense examples with answers.

Present Continuous Tense Exercises:

Complete the sentence following the present continuous formula.

1. We ____________ whether technology is good or bad. (discuss)

2. _______ your kids ____________ the theatre club? (join)

3. I ____________________ a new book. (write, negative)

4. _______ Lottie _______________ today? (drive, negative)

5. A colony of ants ____________ their food on that hill. (gather)

6. Everything ____________ expensive. (become)

7. Several of my classmates ______________ in the marathon. (participate, negative)

8. She ______________ the bus. (ride)

9. Jenna and I ___________ at the library. (read, negative).

10. Where _________ Martha __________ for gifts? (shop)


1. We are discussing whether technology is good or bad.

2. Are your kids joining the theatre club?

3. I am not writing a new book.

4. Is Lottie not driving today?

5. A colony of ants is gathering their food on that hill.

6. Everything is becoming expensive.

7. Several of my classmates are not participating in the marathon.

8. She is riding the bus.

9. Jenna and I are not reading at the library.

10. Where is Martha shopping for gifts?

Common Verbs in the Present Continuous Tense

Study the fifteen present continuous sentences below to memorize their different sentence structures.

Am + (verb + ing) present continuous example

  • I am rarely watching TV at night.
  • I am not trying to bake macaroons.
  • Am I sending this document to him?
  • Am I not moving to Los Angeles?
  • Who am I interviewing for the managerial position this afternoon?

Is + (verb + ing) present continuous example

  • He is always composing new songs.
  • Lilly is not learning how to crochet.
  • Is her sister not finding shells at the seashore?
  • Is Tom not detecting whether the necklace he bought is real gold?
  • What is my pet eating for lunch?

Are + (verb + ing) present continuous example

  • The members of the organization are quitting due to controversial issues.
  • Tony and Simon are not sorting the books at the public library.
  • Are they tying the ropes for the wall climbing activity?
  • Are his parents not planting trees near the river?
  • Where are your children building their snowman this winter?

Here are some more examples of Present Continuous verbs in action:

Shows actions or events happening now

  • I am counting the coins in my wallet.
  • Hayley is running on the treadmill.
  • We are placing labels on the file cabinets.

Describes ongoing actions or conditions

  • I am giving my brother an allowance weekly.
  • She is waiting for the bus.
  • The architects are planning to create a sustainable housing project.

Depicts present actions that happen frequently

  • I am often looking to try Asian food for dinner.
  • Peter is rarely closing the door when he leaves.
  • Her colleagues are sometimes checking the news.


The present continuous structure is relatively easy to memorize and differentiate from other verb tenses. Remember that it uses the “be verbs” am, is, and are and the present participle verb form (verb + ing). As the term suggests, actions in this tense start in the present and continue or progress up to a period of time. Moreover, there are two other uses of the present continuous tense. The first is to depict the frequency of an event or habit, and the second is to show occurrences happening at the moment. This verb tense is a great tool for narrating both in spoken and written English.

Frequently Asked Questions for Present Continuous Tense:

What is present continuous tense with examples?

The present continuous tense talks about ongoing actions happening now and may progress in the future. For example, “Mike is speaking to the receptionist (now).” Even without the time reference in the parenthesis, it implies that the action is happening at the moment. Another example is, “Mika is acting as Juliet in the play.” This sentence doesn’t include a time reference in the sentence structure. However, readers can understand that Mika is doing the process of acting, and it will continue until the play ends.

What are the other forms of present continuous tense?

The five different forms of present continuous tense are enumerated below:
1. Affirmative or positive sentence: Subject + (am, is, are) + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence
2. Negative sentence: Subject + (am, is, are) + not + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence
3. Interrogative sentence: (Am, Is, Are) + Subject + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence
4. Negative interrogative sentence: (Am, Is, Are) + Subject + not + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence
5. WH questions: WH Questions + (am, is, are) + Subject + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence

What is the present continuous tense formula?

The general formula for the present continuous tense is “Subject + (am, is, are) + (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence.” The “be verbs” and the present participle are used together to show that the actions are happening in the moment.

Why do we not use stative verbs with present continuous tense?

We do not use the stative verbs with present continuous tense because this verb tense talks about “actions in progress.” Stative verbs show the state of the subject instead of actions. They refer to thoughts, senses, and emotions which are not compatible to express following the present continuous rules.

What are 5 examples of present continuous interrogative sentences?

The “be verbs” are placed at the beginning of the sentence to form the present continuous interrogative. Examples are:
1. Am I walking to our meeting place?
2. Is Alex bringing his portable speakers?
3. Are they getting the snacks I asked them to buy?
4. Look! Is your dog escaping out of the outdoor pen?
5. Are the children reciting a poem for the program?

What is the rule of present continuous tense?

The general rule of present continuous tense is to use the “be verbs” along with the past participle form of the main verb. In addition, the subject and the “be verbs” must agree in number. Singular subject takes “is” and “am,while “are” is for plural subjects.

What is the difference between present continuous and present perfect continuous tense examples?

First, the present perfect continuous tense describes something which started in the past and extends until the present. As such, it uses the sentence structure “has/have been + (verb + ing).” Examples are:
1. I have been painting since I was nine (until now).
2. She has been exploring different cuisines during her world tour. 
The highlighted actions show that it started in the past but the subject is still performing it in the present. When re-written in the present continuous tense, it becomes:
1. I am painting (now).
2. She is currently exploring different cuisines on a world tour.

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Valentina Gagliardi

Valentina Gagliardi

Valentina has always been a teacher at heart. After spending eight years teaching college-level English, she realised that her true passion was helping people learn and grow – especially when it came to learning English. She firmly believes that in order for language learning to be successful, it’s important to create a comfortable and welcoming environment where students feel safe to experiment and take risks. When she’s not writing for the Lillypad community, Valentina loves travelling, reading and going for long walks with her dog Freddy.

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