be -ing: Present Progressive/Present Continuous Tense

Many resources call this the “present progressive” or “present continuous”. But, you don’t need to worry too much about what grammarians call it. Most native English speakers don’t know what it’s called but they know what it means.

Here we’ll look this meaning based on the key parts of this structure: be and the -ing form.

Or start with our practice exercises.

What is it?

present form past form ing form en form
eat
work
have
play
ate
worked
had
played
eating
working
having
playing
eaten
worked
had
played

What does it mean?

We talk about things that are not finished.

the ing form - progressive / continuous timeline - not finished - happening after

How do we use it?

We use be with the -ing form.

We talk about things that have started and are not finished.

the ing form - progressive / continuous tense timeline - not finished - happening at the time and after

We talk about things that have not started and are not finished. We know or say when.

the ing form - progressive / continuous timeline - not finished - happening after

We use the present form of be (am/are/is) and the -ing form to talk about unfinished actions. These actions finish in the future.

I’m eating breakfast.

present progressive / present continuous tense timeline - not finished, started, happening now

This started in the past and finishes in the future. It is happening now.

I’m eating breakfast at 6AM.

present progressive / present continuous tense timeline - future action

This starts and finishes in the future. It is happening in the future.

We also talk about things that started in the past and finish in the future that are not happening right now.

Sometimes exactly when doesn’t matter. We know it is in the near future.

I’m learning Spanish.

We know that it isn’t happening right now. I’m speaking English now.

I’m getting a new bike.

This is in the future. We know that it isn’t happening in the present.

Examples

Subject be Verb -ing Object Place/Time
We are eating eggs.  We’re eating eggs.
She is working.  She’s working.
I am living in Sweden.  I’m living in Sweden.
He is having breakfast at 7:30 tomorrow.  He’s having breakfast at 7:30 tomorrow.
You are playing soccer on Sunday.  You’re playing soccer on Sunday.

Key Point

We use be -ing to refer to something that is NOT finished.

Practice Exercises

1. Find the -ing form

2. Complete the sentences

3. Complete the conversation