The present progressive, also called the present continuous, is formed with the verb BE conjugated in the simple present followed by a present participle. This is the formula: Subject + BE + (verb+ing). Before you continue, review these lessons: Verb BE | Present participle.
Here are some example sentences.
|Tom and Sue||are||waiting||at the café.|
Some languages have a similar grammatical feature. If, for example, your mother tongue is Spanish or Italian, this lesson will be easy to understand. For Francophones and speakers of other languages that don’t have a progressives, this verb form may be more difficult to understand.
The present progressive has three primary functions.
1) Describes actions that are occurring at this moment.
|I am looking for my keys. I lost them.|
|They can’t go. They are working.|
|The baby is sleeping. Don’t make noise.|
Here is another way to look at the last example.
The baby fell asleep one hour ago and continues to sleep at this moment. In the near future, the baby will awaken.
2) Describes interrupted actions; in other words, actions that began in the past, stopped, then started again and will stop and start again in the future.
|They are painting the house..|
|I am reading a book about Simón Bolivar.|
|She is studying English five days a week.|
These actions may or may not be occurring at the time the speaker is talking. I am reading a book about Simón Bolivar does not necessarily mean the action is occurring at this moment. In fact, I only read before going to sleep. I started the book last month and I will continue to read the book until I finish it.
Here is another example. She is studying English five days a week. This does not mean she is studying at the moment. It is Saturday. She studies Monday through Friday. She will continue to study next Monday.
3) describes a future action.
|She is leaving in two weeks.|
|I am graduating next year.|
|We are staying home tomorrow.|
By using temporal adverbs (in two weeks, next year, tomorrow) the actions can be placed in the future. Without the temporal adverbs, we assume these actions are occurring at this moment.
|She is leaving.||She is leaving in two weeks|
|I am graduating.||I am graduating next year.|
|We are staying home.||We are staying home tomorrow.|
Warning: many students of English are taught that the modal verb will is the standard form used to indicate future actions. In fact, the present progressive is much more common in both American and British English. Learn more about these two forms and others by clicking on future constructions in English.