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The present progressive tense

Look at the following examples:
  • Where is Mum? – She is taking Julia to her dancing lesson.
  • What are you doing? – I am doing my homework.
  • Are you busy? – Yes, sorry, I am just talking to my boyfriend on the phone.
  • We can't make lunch because the cleaning lady is cleaning the kitchen right now.
  • Usually I don't have dinner at a restaurant, but today I am meeting an old friend for dinner.
Take another look at the examples above. Then try to answer the following questions. When you answer the second question, more than one answer is possible.
 
 
 
  1. How do you form the present progressive tense?
     
    • form of to be (am/is/are) + verb + -ing
       
    • infinitive form of a verb
       
  2. When do you use the present progressive tense?
     
    • to express that something is happening out of the ordinary
       
    • to talk about a fact or a state like feelings, likes and dislikes
       
    • to talk about something that is happening and has not finished yet
       
    • to say that something (usually an action) is a regular routine, event or a fact
       
    • to describe what someone is doing at the moment of speech or around the time of speech
       
 
 
 

Positive statements

To form a positive statement using the present progressive, use the form of to be am/is/are + the verb + -ing:
  • The farmer's wife is just feeding the hens.
  • They are going downtown to see a movie.
  • I am reading a very interesting book at the moment.
  • She is looking for her set of keys.
However, there are some exceptions concerning some groups of verbs:
If you use verbs that end with an -e like to come, to make, to take, to brake, to bake, to save, you have to leave out the -e when adding -ing:
  • to take She is taking her son to the doctor.
  • to come The family is coming down the street right now.
  • to bake I am baking a cake.
  • to save We are saving money to buy a new car.
If you use verbs that end with -ie like to lie, to die, you have to change the -ie into y when adding -ing:
  • to lie I think he is lying to me.
If you use verbs that end with a short vowel + a consonant like -m, -n, -p, -t like to run, to hop, to cut, to shut, you have to double the consonant when adding -ing:
  • to run The kids are running around the yard.
  • to hop They are hopping around the room like rabbits.
  • to cut She is cutting out something.
Now practise the present progressive tense. Read the sentences below and choose the correct forms.
 
 
 
  1. Usually we meet our parents on Sunday, but this week we 
     them on Saturday.

     
  2. Julia 
     the door.

     
  3. Tom and Tobi 
     a movie.

     
  4. At the moment I 
     a letter to my friend.

     
  5. John 
     to his brother right now.

     
  6.  on the computer.

     
 
 
 
Watch out! Some verbs are never used in the present progressive tense! These are:
  • to be, to seem
  • to like, to dislike, to love, to hate
  • to wish, to want
  • to see, to notice
Also, there are some signal words that indicate that you need to use the present progressive tense. These are:
  • right now, now
  • at the moment
  • just
  • at present
  • currently
  • Look!

Negative statements

To negate a statement, you just negate the form of "to be" using the word not:
  • They are not going downtown to see a movie.
  • I am not reading a very interesting book at the moment.
  • The kids are not running around the yard.
  • I think he is not lying to me.
  • She is not taking her son to the doctor.
If you want to read again how exactly to negate the forms of "to be" or how to use the short forms, click here.
Practise negative statements using the present progressive tense. Just negate the positive statements that are given.
 
 
 
  1. He is taking the garbage outside.
     
    .

     
  2. The weather is getting better.
     
    .

     
  3. We are fighting all the time these days.
     
    .

     
  4. I am having fun at this party!
     
    .

     
  5. Politicians are having a hard time these days.
     
    .

     
 
 
 

Yes-no-questions

You pose a yes-no-question using the present progressive in the same way as you would pose a yes-no-question with "to be". If you can't remember the rules, click here.
Just change the word order of the sentence. The question has the following word order: Form of to be + noun/pronoun (+ adverb) + verb + -ing + ….? If you look at the question closely, you can see that you only switch the subject of the sentence and the form of "to be":
  • The weather is getting better. Is the weather getting better?
  • He is taking the garbage outside. Is he taking the garbage outside?
  • The kids are running around the yard. Are the kids running around the yard?
It's the same with negative statements and yes-no-questions:
  • The weather is not getting better. Is the weather not getting better?
  • He is not taking the garbage outside. Is he not taking the garbage outside?
  • The kids are not running around the yard. Are the kids not running around the yard?

Wh-questions

Click here to read how to pose a Wh-question. Here are some examples of Wh-questions using the present progressive:
  • What are you doing?
  • Where are you going?
  • Who is calling?
 

Use

You use the present progressive tense in three different cases:
  • to describe what someone is doing at the moment of speech or around the time of speech:
    • Where are the kids? – They are playing outside. At the time when the person asks the question, the kids are playing outside.
  • to talk about something that is happening and has not finished yet:
    • I am reading a really good book at the moment. , The person is reading it at the time, he or she has not finished it yet.
  • to express that something is happening out of the ordinary:
    • Usually we don't spend much money on cars, but this time we are getting a really expensive one.
 
 
 
 
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