Present Continuous Tense (Tense 3)
In our previous chapter, we talked about Simple Present Tense. Today, our shift is on Present Continuous Tense, another form of Tense.
Present Continuous Tense
As the name suggests, present continuous tense speaks about an action which is happening at this moment (at the time of speaking); an action in current motion (at the time of speaking.
She is singing
Syntax: Subject + be auxiliary verbs(am/is/are) + verb (ing) + (object OR no object) + …
Note1: The action (singing) has started but is not compete yet. When it’s complete, it will get into another form of tense.(present perfect tense).
- I am eating.
- You are studying.
- He is watching a movie now.
- They are playing football.
- The boys are celebrating John’s birthday.
- I am thinking to step down.
- It is not raining now.
All the above sentence are in actions which are still going on. They are all incomplete actions on the part of the speakers. So, they are in Continuous Tense. Since they are happening in the present time, they are called Present Continuous Tense.
Uses of Present Continuous Tense
We’ve seen what continuous tense is and how we can form it. Check out the three uses of Present Continuous Tense in the following -
→ For an action which is still continuing and not complete yet -
We know this already, don’t we? Yes, for any action which is still going or continuing and not complete yet, we use Present Continuous Tense.
- I am reading a book. [the act of reading the book is still going on and not complete yet]
- Mr. Alex is delivering a speech on global warming. [his action on delivering a speech is still going on and not yet finished]
→ For an action which is sure to happen in near future -
When we understand that an action will happen or sure to happen in near future, we may use present continuous tense. Use of this tense confirms the definiteness of the action in the future. See examples.→
- It is going to rain tonight. [rain has not started but it's almost sure that will rain tonight]
- Mr. Lee is arriving next week. [his arrival is confirmed and he'll complete this action]
Note2: In this case, we can also use simple future tense which won’t be incorrect at all. It will rain tonight = it’s going to rain tonight. However, the later looks more definite.
Note3: ‘going to‘ also works like an auxiliary verb and it always means ‘an action to happen in near future‘.
- For an action which is not actually happening at this moment but will happen surely -
Sometimes, we perform an action but leave it mid-way to complete it later. This means, an action has already started but not completed yet. But, we’re not doing it right now; we’ll do it later and complete the action. In this case, Present Continuous Tense should be used. See examples-
- I am reading the novel Gulliver Travels these days. [this confirms that the action of 'reading' has already started and will go on. But at the time of speaking, I am actually not performing this action. Maybe, 'I am having my dinner now but sharing this thought with my co-diner'.]
- I am doing a workshop in this college. [true, that I am doing an action (doing a workshop) in this college and it's not yet over. But, at the time of speaking, I am not doing it; I am just sleeping or eating my lunch ]
Exceptions on using Present Continuous Tense
Although, when there is a continuous & not-yet-complete action, we use Present continuous tense following the syntax given above. However, there are certain verbs which do not come in continuous form (but you can always use them; no grammatical error). Instead, they are to be in simple present tense only. See examples →
is appearingto me that he is lying. [this sounds a bit weird. Instead, use 'it appears to me']
- The mangoes
are tastingvery sweet. [again, don't use 'tasting'. Just use 'mangoes taste..']
Similarly, the following verbs should not be used in Present Continuous tense. They can be, however, used but modern English grammar does not find it amusing. See a few words below →
hear, seem, suppose, hate, love, recognize, die, refuse, taste, think, believe, agree, understand, know, mind, mean, forget, have (when it means possession), wish, want, feel, prefer, see, smell, deem, belong, find, hope .. ( and many more.. Please let me know if you come across a few more)
Note4: All the above words are normally used in simple tense. But if you use them in continuous form, this won’t be a crime nor it will be completely grammatically incorrect but avoid using them.
→ Die – it cannot be in continuous form since the action of death cannot be in continual form. A person dies once.
→ Dying – if we use ‘dying’ it always means, ‘very eager to’.
» I am dying to watch this movie. [ = I'm very eager to watch this movies]
→ Have (own/possess) – You can’t say ‘I am having two brothers‘. You don’t own your brothers nor any possession is ever in motion. You just own them.
→ Have (eat/take) – You can say ‘I am having my dinner‘ [= I am eating my dinner]
→ Taste – As already mentioned, you shouldn’t say ‘the mango is tasting sweet‘ since the action of tasting is not continuous here. It just tastes sweet.
→ Taste – But when you actually put an action related to this verb (taste), you can use it in continuous form. e.g. ‘I am tasting the coffee to check if the sugar given is okay‘. Here it means ‘checking the flavor of coffee to ascertain something’.
→ Start – The continuous form of ‘start’ is normally associated with computer these days, ‘the computer is starting, please wait a while‘. The verb ‘start’ is usually used in simple tense. But, these days it’s okay to say ‘starting’.
→ Shut – Follow the immediate above explanation with ‘start. ‘Shut’ is also common with computer jargon. Usually, we avoid ‘He is shutting the door‘. No harm if you say so though
→ Know – Know is the verb form of the noun ‘knowledge’. So, it’s not a continual action. You know something and it’s an asset to you now.
Note5: (There are other words as well falling in the same category. I can’t recollect all of them now but I’ll keep on updating it with more words similar to what’s described above. Your help will also be appreciative.)
Anyway, we are done with Present Continuous Tense in this chapter. To sum up things – any action which has started and still it’s going on/ not yet complete, we need to use Present Continuous Tense. That’s all about it.
Hope this helps you understand Present Continuous Tense. Your feedback or any suggestion will be appreciative. Do let me know if I miss out anything here or if anything goes wrong. I’ll update it immediately. Until then, have a great learning time.