Understanding the Present Perfect/Present Continuous

The present continuous is formed with the verb to bea present participle.

am/is/are + –ing

There are several reasons why we use the present continuous.  We use the present continuous to talk about temporary actions that are happening in the present moment or around the present moment (that is, immediately before, during or after the present moment).

Why are you smiling?  Did someone make you happy?

Tom is on his way to the party.  He just told me that he is on the bus!

We also use the present continuous to talk about…

Repeated Actions that are happening around the present

Joe said that he‘s traveling a lot these days!  Last week he was in Dubai and next week he will be in Moscow.

Why are you stirring the soup?  I think it’s ready to eat!

Changes that are taking place right now

Your kids are growing up so fast!

The dollar is rising in value these days.

Talking about the future is another use of the present continuous, especially future plans.

A: What are you doing this weekend?

B: I‘m going to play tennis with Jessica.  Then we are going to go to a bar for drinks.

However, there are some times that we do not use the present continuous.

Things that happen all the time do not use the present continuous.  Compare these sentences:

  1. Look – the cat‘s eating dog food! (Not something that usually happens, so the present continuous is used)
  2. A: What does your cat eat?  B: He is so picky!  He only eats salmon.  (The cat always only eats salmon, so we use the present simple since it is a habitual action).

There are also several verbs that aren’t used in the present continuous because of their context.  Modal verbs, verbs that express mental or emotional states, verbs that express senses and several other verbs are never used in the present continuous.

Here is a list of verbs that are often not used in continuous tenses:

Mental and Emotional States
believe doubt feel (= have an opinion)
hate imagine know
(dis)like see (= understand) love
prefer realize recognize
remember suppose think (= have an opinion)
understand want wish
Expressing Senses
feel see sound
hear smell taste
Communicating and Causing Reactions
agree impress promise
appear look (=seem) satisfy
astonish mean
deny please surprise
Modal Verbs
can may shall
will could might
should would ought to
Other Verbs
be belong concern
consist certain depend
deserve fit include
involve lack matter
measure (=have length) need owe
own possess weigh (= have weight)

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