What are continuous tenses?
Continuous tenses or progressive tenses are used to show that an action is still in motion (hasn’t finished). Although useful as the present continuous, we can also use the past continuous as well as the future continuous tenses.
How to form the continuous tense?
To form the continuous tense we need the present participle as well as the continuous tense of “to be” (am, is, are). This does change slightly for the past and future continuous tenses however.
He is singing.
They are running.
I am laughing.
|verb stem||present participle|
As you can see above, a lot of the time we can simply add “ing” to our verb stem to form the present participle. Sometimes though we need to remove the last letter before adding “ing” (type -> typing). We also sometimes double up the last letter (swim -> swimming).
Past Continuous Tense
We use this tense to show an event that was happening in the past.
For this form we need to use was / were before our present participle.
I was teaching all day last Tuesday.
He was cooking for two hours this morning.
They were playing together all summer.
Present Continuous Tense
This tense is used to show an event that is happening right now.
I am currently typing this article.
You are reading this page.
They are also reading this page.
We can also use this tense in a similar way to the simple present to express an ongoing pursuit or activity (e.g working or studying etc) even if we aren’t doing it right this second.
I am teaching. (This means I work as a teacher even if I’m not currently teaching a class.)
You are studying English. (This is true even if you are watching TV right now. As long as the studying is an ongoing thing.)
They are working on a project. (Again, they may not be doing it right this second but it is an ongoing pursuit.)
Lastly we can also use the present continuous tense to talk about things that will happen in the future.
I am visiting Grandma tomorrow.
He is traveling to Germany next week.
She is cooking dinner next Tuesday.
Future Continuous Tense
We use this tense to talk about ongoing activities that will be happening in the future.
As this is in the future we need to use “will be” before the present participle.
I will be running in the marathon next week.
He will be fishing this afternoon.
They won’t be coming to dinner tomorrow.
Continuous Tenses Quiz
Time to test your continuous tense skills!