The Present Progressive Tense With Examples

We use the present progressive tense in English to talk about things that are happening at this moment. It is also called the present continuous tense. I believe it is one of the easiest tenses in English and I hope that I convince you of that in this article.

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When to Use the Present Progressive

  • Actions that are happening in this moment.
  • It can be used to talk about fixed plans in the future.
  • Things that happen often.

Words That Indicate That You Should Use This Tense

When you use any of the following signal words you have to use the present continuous:

  • at the moment
  • now
  • right now
  • while

How to Form This Tense

The hardest part of this tense is conjugating “to be”. I’m not kidding, all you have to do for this tense is conjugate “to be”. Now, add the base form (the infinitive) of the verb plus “ing”, this is called the present participle. Here is the recipe:


The base form or infinitive of a verb is the version of the verb that you would use in the present tense, without an “-s”.

Conjugating “To Be”

I wrote a post on English verb conjugation, but I’ll give you a quick recap here.

Conjugating "To Be"
Person followed by conjugation:
I am
We are
You (Singular and Plural) are
They are
He is
She is
It is

Present Progressive Examples

For this tense, you start with the subject and add the conjugated form of “to be”. After that, you put the verb and add “ing” to the end of the verb. Here are some examples:

I am sitting.

Rita is sitting.

You are sitting.

Spelling “-ing”

If the verb is only one syllable which is stressed and ends on on a vowel followed by one consonant, double the consonant and add “ing”:

run – running

pat – patting

sit – sitting

But if a one syllable verb that ends on a vowel followed by one consonant is not stressed, you just add “ing”:

fix – fixing

shout – shouting

With two syllable verbs ending on a vowel followed by one consonant where the last syllable is stressed, the last letter is also doubled before you add “ing”:

forget – forgetting

compel – compelling

begin – beginning

But if a two syllable verb ends on a vowel followed by one consonant and the last syllable is not stressed, the last letter is not doubled. You just add “ing”:

listen – listening

follow – following

orbit – orbiting

If the verb ends on a consonant followed by an “e”, take away the “e” and add “ing”:

smile – smiling

ride – riding

write – writing

If the verb ends on two vowels followed by one consonant, do not double the consonant, just add “ing”:

rain – raining

read – reading

look – looking

If the verb ends on two consonants, do not double the consonant, just add “ing”:

push – pushing

inject – injecting

stand – standing

For verbs ending on “ie”, you change the “ie” to “y” and then add “ing”:

untie – untying

die – dying

lie – lying

Questions in the Present Continuous

Asking yes or no questions in the present continuous tense is similar to asking them in the simple present tense; you only move the conjugated verb to the start of the sentence. Let’s use the sentence “Mary is sleeping” as an example:

Is Mary sleeping?”

You can, of course also add a question word to the start of that question:

Why is Mary sleeping?

Where is Mary sleeping?

Here is a list with all the possible question words that you can use:

Question words in English:
Question word followed by use
How for a method
What for something of many
When for a time
Where for a place
Which for something of few
Who for a person
Whose to ask about possession
Why for a reason

Negatives in the Present Progressive

In this tense, you only add “not” after the conjugated from of “to be” to the sentence. Here are some examples:

She is not ill.

They are not brothers.

I am not a student.

The Simple Present vs the Present Continuous

The simple present tense is used for habits, usual activities and general truths whereas the present progressive is used for actions happening in this moment.

In the simple present we use “do” or “does” in negatives, but in the present progressive we use “am”, “is” or “are”.

Furthermore, the present progressive always uses “am”, “is” or “are” in questions. The simple present, on the other hand, can either use “am”, “is” or “are” or “do” or “does”.

Non-action Verbs Not Used in the Present Continuous

Some verbs are not used in the present continuous tense because although they are verbs, they do not indicate an action and the present continuous is always about actions. Some of these verbs are:

  • want
  • need
  • like
  • love
  • hate
  • hear
  • see
  • smell
  • taste
  • understand
  • know
  • believe
  • think (when it means believe)

It is important to note that sometimes these verbs are used as action verbs, meaning they do indicate an action. In these cases they can be used in the present continuous. Take a look at this article on the exceptions of non-action verbs.

Concluding Thoughts: The Present Progressive Tense in English

The present progressive is one of the easiest tenses in English and probably also the most used one. So, if you know how to use it, you are well on your way to speaking English fluently.


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