The present continuous is, together with the present simple, the first tense that is learned when it comes to learning English. It is one of the verb tenses that express the present tense, so you should familiarize yourself with it as soon as possible. With these simple techniques you can achieve it.
Part 1 of 3: Learn its uses
Step 1. Use it in context
The present continuous is the tense in English that is formed with the auxiliary verb "to be" and the gerund of the verb that you are going to use (its infinitive form + "ing"). You must adapt its use to a defined context, so pay attention to the events that you can express through its use. The past simple is used to:
- Temporary scenarios, situations that you find yourself talking about at the moment, circumstances expressing criticism or for realities in the near future.
- Continually practice its use. Make diagrams and exercises on the present continuous
Step 2. Use it for temporary scenarios
The present continuous will be adequate for you to express yourself about temporary situations. That is, those situations that happen at a certain moment in time, but are only transitory.
- Example: He´s staying with some friends at the moment.
- Translation: He is staying with some friends at the moment.
Step 3. Use it for present actions
Use it in actions that occur in time or about the time you are talking about. These are situations in the present that are happening right now, but they are not temporary as in the previous case. They are stable situations in this present tense, about which you are talking.
- Example: She´s looking for a new job at the moment.
- Translation: She is looking for a new job right now.
Step 4. Use it with the frequency adverb “Always”
You can use it to express certain emotions, such as annoyance, anger, disappointment or criticism about something. The joint use of this adverb can be key for you when it comes to identifying this verb tense, so you should pay attention to the translations you have to do or the sentences you have to build.
- Example: She´s always telling lies!
- Translation: She is always lying!
Step 5. Target it for fixed realities
That is, for events that will take place in the near future and are safe in this present time that you are talking about. These realities speak about already organized, fixed events. It is assumed that everything has already been arranged so that the conditions to be expressed are met. The time of action is always established and understood.
- Example: I'm flying to London tomorrow.
- Translation: I'm going to fly to London tomorrow.
Part 2 of 3: Assimilate Your Shapes
Step 1. Know your adverbs
For the use of the present continuous, there is a specific and defined list of expressions of time, which are normally used with this tense. This can help you identify it more easily, so you should memorize these adverbs.
Now, at the moment, at present, always, tonight, etc
Step 2. Form correct structures
Respect the rules of grammar when forming this tense. To build it, you need to add the auxiliary verb "to be" to the gerund (infinitive + ing) of the verb that you are going to use in the sentence. The sentence structure will be Subject + Axuliar (to be) + Gerund.
- Examples: I am talking / She is talking / We are talking.
- Translation: I am speaking / She is speaking / We are speaking.
Step 3. Be aware of the exceptions
There are non-continuous verbs, so some verbs rarely appear in continuous tenses. These verbs express a permanent situation or state, that is, you must use them according to the context and the needs of the sentence you want to express. These verbs are: be, believe, belong, cost, feel, forget, hate, know, like, love, mean, need, prefer, realize, remember, see, seem, smell, sound, suppose, taste, think, understand, want, etc.
- There are other verbs whose inclusion in this list will depend on the meaning you want to give it in the sentence: appear (= seem), have (= posess).
- Example: Correct - I understand it now / The use here of the Present Continuous will be incorrect - I am understanding it now.
- Translation: I understand now.
Part 3 of 3: Use Time Correctly
Step 1. Use the structures
Within the sentences, there are those of the affirmative type and those of the negative type, as well as the interrogatives. Between the affirmative and negative we must control their structures, for their correct use. In the affirmative, the structure is composed of Subject + auxiliary verb (to be) + gerund and the negatives of Subject + auxiliary verb (to be) + negative auxiliary (not) + gerund
- Affirmative: I´m flying / He´s flying / They´re flying.
- Translation: I am flying / He is flying / They are flying.
- Negative: I´m not flying / She´s not flying.
- Translation: I am not flying / She is not flying.
Step 2. Question phrases
In interrogative sentences with Present Continuous, you must also monitor the structure of the sentence, so that the question you are asking is structured correctly. To do this, use the following scheme when formulating your question in this tense: auxiliary verb (to be) + subject + gerund + final question mark. [?]
- Are you flying? / Is she flying? / Are they flying ?.
- You are flying? / Is she flying? / They are flying?
Step 3. Practice in a fun way
There are many songs in English in which this verb tense predominates. Practice the use and context of the Present I continue attending to the lyrics of songs of any style. There is no easier way to accustom your sight to these verbal structures as well as your hearing, than by listening and reading the lyrics of your favorite songs. Some examples are quite good and suitable for an entry level:
- Things I'll Never Say - Avril Lavigne
- Sailing - Rod Stewart
- I'm only sleeping - The Beatles
- Lemon Tree - Fool's Garden
- This verb tense is one of the first to be taught, along with the Present Simple, in any English book or course. Pay close attention and leave the theoretical bases very well established, since otherwise you will not be able to continue advancing.
- Try to read simple texts in the present tense. They will help you focus on those contexts so you can better identify their shapes.