Present continuous

by John November 25, 2020

What are you doing right now?

How about later? What are you doing after dinner?

These and similar questions are some of the things our friends ask us on a daily basis.

English grammar has many tenses and we often don’t know which one to use and it can leave us in a tizzy.
Today we are going to deal with the Present continuous tense and when to use it.

Present continuous

When do we use the present continuous?

We use the present continuous in 2 ways.

  1. To talk about what we are doing at the moment
  2. To talk about arrangements in the future.

If someone sends you a whatsapp message asking what you are doing at the moment, you use the present continuous to respond to them.

“Hey. I’m just watching Netflix at the moment”

In this example, we are telling them an action that is in progress at the moment.
Other examples could be: I’m cooking dinner, I’m cleaning the house, I’m reading etc.

To form the present continuous tense we use: Subject + to be + present participle

The present participle is the  ‘ing’ form of the verb eg. praying

Take a look at the following:

I’m eating

You’re eating

He’s/She’s eating

It’s eating

We’re eating

You’re eating

They’re eating

As always, in conversation we use contracted forms so she is eating becomes she’s eating etc.

For questions we just reverse the subject and auxiliary verb: Is she eating? Are they eating?

If we want to ask a specific question we just add a question word at the beginning: What is she eating? Where are you eating?

For a negative sentence we just put not before the main verb: I’m not eating.

It’s a piece of cake really!

Present continuous - Now

We use to be + present participle to talk about an action that is in progress at the moment

Present continuous for future arrangements

The present continuous can also be used for the future.

I know it’s a little funny, but it’s true. We can use the present continuous to talk about the future when we have an arrangement.

You might remember that we use the structure ‘going to + infinitive’ to talk about plans in the future:

“I’m going to go to the beach this weekend.”

But when a plan becomes more certain, it becomes an arrangement. If you know for sure that you will be at the beach on the weekend you can say:

“I’m going to the beach this weekend.”

Some more examples of this would be: “I’m getting married next year”, “She’s having a baby in December”, “They’re starting college in September”.

These are more than plans, they’re arrangements. We have these things organized.

Think about your own arrangements for next year? What are they?

Test Yourself

Think about possible arrangements for each situation.

Example: What are you doing after the lesson?

Answer: I’m cleaning the house.

  1. When you finish learning English…
  2. Your friend’s packing her suitcase. Why?
  3. Your fiancee/sister is trying on wedding dresses, why?
  4. You are writing a speech. Why?

Present continuous - Future

We use to be + present participle to talk about an arrangement in the future

Test Yourself

Choose the correct answer


Present continuous

1 / 6

We use the present continuous to talk about ______________.

2 / 6

We use the present continuous ____________________.

3 / 6

We make the present continuous tense by:

4 / 6

Which of these sentences do we use for a plan?

5 / 6

Which of these sentences is an arrangement?

6 / 6

They are ___________________ in December.

Your score is


Funny: apart from something that makes us laugh, funny can mean strange

Speech: a presentation we give by speaking

In a tizzy: excited, nervous


Piece of cake: something that is very easy to do

Example: The exam was a piece of cake

Would you like to know more about tenses for the future?
Check out our other Grammar blog posts!

If you would like some more information about our online courses at Central School of English, Dublin, please find our website here.

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