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The Present Progressive Tense

Spelling Tip

Verbing (Present Participle)

  • Add ing to most verbs. Ex. play > playing, cry > crying, bark > barking
  • For verbs that end in e, remove the e and add ing. Ex: slide > sliding, ride > riding
  • For verbs that end in ie, change the ie to y and add ing. Ex: die > dying, tie > tying
  • For a verb whose last syllable is written with a consonant-vowel-consonant and is stressed, double the last letter before adding ing. Ex: beg > begging, begin > beginning. However: enter > entering (last syllable is not stressed)

The present progressive tense is often overused by non-native speakers of English. It should only be used in the following contexts:

To describe an incomplete action which is in progress at the moment of speaking; usually with time expressions such as: now, at the moment, right now.

  1. (During a phone call or in an e-mail) We are discussing the project at the moment.

To describe a plan or arrangement in the near future; usually with time expressions such as: tonight, tomorrow, this week, this Monday.

  1. Jim‘s leaving for Brussels this evening.

To express actions that are repeated regularly; usually with a negative meaning and with the time expressions: always or forever.

  1. Her husband is always complaining about his health.

Note: A common mistake is using this form to describe what a company sells or produces. In general, a company sells something on a regular basis, so you need to use the present simple tense and not the present progressive.

  • Incorrect: We are producing high-end plastic pipes.
  • Correct: We produce high-end plastic pipes.
  • Correct: That company is always selling some cheap gadget. (negative meaning)

The present progressive (continuous) is formed using am, is or are together with the ing (present participle) form of the verb.

Subject A form of be + Verbing (Present Participle) Rest of Sentence
I am taking my final exam tomorrow
He / She / It is sweeping the floor at the moment
You / We / They are giving me a headache

Contractions in the Present Progressive (Continuous)

In general we contract (or shorten) the subject (the person or thing doing the action), and form of be:

  1. I am > I’m – I’m going to the store in about ten minutes.
  2. He is > He’s, She is > She’s, It is > It’s – It’s raining cats and dogs.
  3. We are > We’re, You are > You’re, They are > They’reWe’re catching the 9:00 flight.

Save the long forms for when you want to create emphasis.

  1. You are not going out tonight!

When speaking, you should stress the not.

Negatives in the Present Progressive (Continuous)

Spelling Tip

When shortening a form of be and negative, just remove the o in not and add an apostrophe (‘)
is not > isn’t
are not > aren’t

The negative in the present progressive tense is created using am not, is not or are not together with the ing form (present participle) of the verb.

Subject A form of be + Verbing Rest of Sentence
I am not working on that project now
He / She / It isn’t sleeping at the moment
You / We / They aren’t running in the marathon tomorrow

Note: In general, use these contractions in the negative: isn’t, aren’t. Am not cannot be shortened, but you can say I’m not. Save the long forms for when you want to create emphasis.

  1. I’m not listening to you.
  2. Roger isn’t eating with us tonight.
  3. The Smiths aren’t going to France this year. They’re going to Thailand.
  4. He is not coming with me dressed like that!

Yes/No Questions in the Present Progressive (Continuous)

To ask a question that will be answered with either a yes or no, start with Am, Is or Are, then choose your subject (the person or thing doing the action), followed by the ing (present participle) form of the verb and then the rest of your question.

A Form of be Subject Verbing Rest of Sentence
Am I making myself clear
Is he / she / it shaking right now
Are you / we / they buying steaks for dinner tomorrow
  1. Am I talking too much?
  2. Is that your dog barking?
  3. Are you participating in the competition next week?

Wh-Questions in the Present Progressive

Wh- questions are questions that require more information in their answers. Typical wh- words are what, where, when, which, why, who, how, how many, how much.

To create a wh-question, start with the wh-word, then add am, is or are, then the subject (a person or thing that is doing the action), followed by the ing ( present participle) form of the verb and only then add the rest of the sentence.

Wh Word A form of be Subject Verbing Rest of Sentence
Who am I meeting with today
What is he / she / it doing right now
When are you / we / they choosing the colors for the room
  1. Which route are you taking to the conference this week?
  2. Why is she bleeding?
  3. Who am I sending to the meeting?

Tag Questions in the Present Progressive

Tag questions are those short questions that are tagged onto the end of a sentence. They are used just to make sure the person you’re talking to understood what you meant or to emphasize what you said.

They’re formed by using a positive sentence in the present progressive and adding isn’t or aren’t and a pronoun (I, you, we, they, he, she, it) and a question mark. For sentences in the first person (I), use the tag aren’t I?

  1. Terry is driving to the post office, isn’t she?
  2. All the kids in the class are going on the field trip, aren’t they?
  3. I‘m buying tickets for everyone, aren’t I?

You may also add a positive tag when you’re using a negative sentence.

  1. Latika‘s not working at IBM anymore, is she?
  2. Tomer and Guy aren’t going on the trek to South America, are they?

As a rule: When the sentence is positive, the tag is negative.
When the sentence is negative, the tag is positive.

Exercises for Present Progressive

Fill in the correct form of the Present Progressive as in the examples.

  1. The runners are approaching the finish line. (approach)
  2. Are you preparing the contract for the client? (prepare)
  3. Joyce isn’t playing in today’s tournament. (not play)
  1. The team members ______________ late to finish the bid. (stay)
  2. What _______Arnie ____________ over there? (do)
  3. _______ you __________ a big wedding? (plan)
  4. Tim is helping you put the lights up, ___________?
  5. The computers _____ finally ____________ like they’re supposed to. (run)
  6. _________ Ann _________ in from New York tonight? (fly)
  7. The customers aren’t getting the price quote this week, ____________?
  8. I________________ Peter for a drink later. (meet)
  9. How much money ________ they _________ in the company?(invest)
  10. He ___________ to you. (not lie) He ____________ the truth. (tell)

Answers:

  1. are staying
  2. is/doing
  3. Are/planning
  4. isn’t he
  5. are/running
  6. Is/flying
  7. are they
  8. am meeting
  9. are/investing
  10. isn’t lying/is telling

Examples – Present Progressive (Continuous)

Positive

  1. We are discussing the project at the moment.
  2. Jim’s leaving for Brussels this evening.
  3. Her husband is always complaining about his health.

Contractions

  1. I’m going to the store in about ten minutes.
  2. It’s raining cats and dogs.
  3. We’re catching the 9:00 flight.

Negatives

  1. I’m not listening to you.
  2. Roger isn’t eating with us tonight.
  3. The Smiths aren’t going to France this year. They’re going to Thailand.
  4. He is not coming with me dressed like that!

Yes/No Questions

  1. Am I talking too much?
  2. Is that your dog barking?
  3. Are you participating in the competition next week?

Wh-Questions

  1. Which route are you taking to the conference this week?
  2. Why is she bleeding?
  3. Who am I sending to the meeting?

Tag Questions

  1. Terry is driving to the post office, isn’t she?
  2. All the kids in the class are going on the field trip, aren’t they?
  3. I’m buying tickets for everyone, aren’t I?
  4. Latika’s not working at IBM anymore, is she?
  5. Tomer and Guy aren’t going on the trek to South America, are they?