Use be -ing?
Present simple vs Present Progressive

When do people use be -ing? Let’s look at some sentences with be -ing (present progressive/present continuous) and the present form (present simple) to better understand the meaning be -ing adds and why speakers choose to use it.

Or start with our practice exercises.

Why do we use it?

We add be -ing to our sentences to show something is not finished.


We use the present form when we are talking generally. Actions generally happen many times.

We use am/are/is + -ing form to talk about something that is not finished. We are talking about something that is happening at or happening during a specific time.

present simple tense timeline - in general - many times

I play golf.
I don’t drink tea. It generally doesn’t happen.
you watch the football?

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

I‘m playing golf (now).
I‘m not drinking tea. I’m drinking coffee (now).
Are you watching the football (now)?

present progressive / present continuous tense timeline - future action

I‘m playing golf tomorrow.
I‘m not drinking tea next week. I’m having a break from it.
Are you watching the football tonight?

We use the present form for general descriptions.

We use am/are/is + -ing form for things that are not finished. These things finish in the future.

She has a baby.

general description: what she has.

She is having a baby.

action: what she is doing – giving birth.
This action finishes in the future.
(She may be giving birth now or pregnant now and giving birth in the future.)

I live in England.

This is generally permanent.
We are not thinking about it finishing.

I‘m living in England.

This is temporary. We are focusing on now.
We are thinking about it finishing.

Practice Exercises

1. Complete the conversation

*TIP* This is a conversation, so use “I’m staying…”

2. Complete the sentence

3. How can we say it?

Choose sentences to fit the situations. There may be more than one answer.

If you’d like to go over these again you can review information on the present form and be -ing, a very useful chunk form used in the 12 or 16  English tense patterns.

Next, review and compare sentences with the past form and be -ing to understand how these two forms are opposites in the way they talk about actions that are finished or not finished.

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