A. Definition

Consider this example situation:

Rick is in his car. He is on his way to the mall.
Bob is driving to work.

This means: He is driving now, at the time of speaking. The action is not finished.

Am/is/are + Verb~ing is the present continuous:

  I am ( or I’m) driving

  he/she/it is (or he’s etc.) working

  we/you/they are (or we’re etc.) doing

•  You use the present continuous to talk about things that are happening at the moment of speaking, this means when we talk about things happening in a period around now (for example, today/this week/this evening etc.)

Look! The dog is digging up your flowerbed!

‘Is Bradly working this week?’  ‘No, He’s on holiday.’

‘You’re working hard today.’  ‘Yes, I have a lot to do.’ (not ‘you work hard today’)

•  You use the present continuous to talk about things that are in the process of changing or developing, this means when we talk about changes happening around now.

Is your English getting better? (not ‘does your English get better’)

MP3 and MP4 players are getting cheaper.

The population of the world is rising very fast. (not ‘rises’)

•  You use the present continuous to talk about things that are temporary.

Jane is drinking lots of fruit juice. She’s on a diet at the moment.

I’m reading a great book by William Dalrymple.

•  You use the present continuous to talk about personal future arrangements, especially when you give the time and/or place.

We’re meeting Jessy and Tony outside the post office.

I’m playing football with John this afternoon.

B. Remember and note

I am writing something = I’m in the middle of writing something; I’ve started writing it and I haven’t finished yet.

Often the action is happening at the time of speaking:

Let’s play out now. It isn’t raining any more. (not ‘it doesn’t rain’)

Please be quit. I’m working. (not ‘I work’)

I’m exhausted. I’m going to sleep now. Goodnight!

‘Where’s James?’ ‘He’s having a bath.’ (not ‘He has a bath’)

(at a festival) Hello, Lily. Are you enjoying the festival? (not ‘do you enjoy’)

But the action is not necessarily happening at the time of speaking. Let’s study this situation:

James and Rick are sitting in a cafe. James start talking:
James: I’m reading an interesting story at the moment. I will lend it to you when I’ve finished it.
James is not reading the book at the time of speaking. He means that he has started it but not finished it yet. He is in the middle of reading it.

Some more examples:

Some friends of mine are building their own house. They hope it will be finished before next summer.

Marry wants to work in Spain, so she is learning Spanish. (but perhaps she isn’t learning Spanish exactly at the time of speaking)

C. Quiz and Exercises

Test your knowledge now by passing this test from here:

You can work on other exercises in your spare time to consolidate your knowledge about the topic.