Present Progressive Tense

When to use Present Progressive Tense

Progressive tenses generally refer to only a given moment in time, not a whole period. Whereas Simple tenses usually cover a longer period, expressing repeated events and regularity. In case of progressive tenses, the speaker doesn’t want to express regularity or general facts. The focus is on the action that takes place at that given moment.

These actions are usually unfinished and incomplete. For example, expressing that someone is in the progress of preparing for an exam is done by using the Present Progressive Tense.
She is studying for an exam.

However, when she finished all preparations, knows the material and is ready to take the exam, you will have to use the Present Perfect Tense.
She has studied for an exam.

  • Ongoing actions at a given moment
    Dad’s watching a soccer game in the living room.
    She’s dancing like crazy to this song.
  • Ongoing actions during a given period
    Are you still working out so much?
    I’m traveling in Asia till the summer.
  • For future plans
    She is arriving on Monday from Bali.
    We are joining the advanced group next semester.
  • To express annoyance of a repeated action
    My boyfriend is constantly playing with video games.
    My parents are always arguing with me.

!! Note that some verbs cannot be used in progressive tenses. To review these, check out our overview post about progressive tenses.

Review how Present Progressive compares to other tenses with the help of the following table:

present progressive

Structure of Present Progressive Tense

Subject + conjugated form of ‘to be’ + Progressive Participle of Main Verb + Object

The Present Progressive Tense uses a compound verb that consists of the conjugated form of ‘to be’ and the progressive participle of the main verb. Note that ‘to be’ is the auxiliary verb in this tense that needs to be in correct form to agree with the subject. The action verb gets an -ing ending the following way:

  • If the verb ends in an ‘e’, drop the ‘e’ and add the -ing
    E.g. live → living
    have → having
    give → giving
  • If the one-syllable verb ends in a consonant + vowel + consonant, double the last letter and add -ing. However, there is no need to double the last letter if the verb ends in ‘w’, ‘x’ or ‘y’ because the emphasis is not on the final consonant.
    E.g. get → getting
    step → stepping
    knit → knitting
  • If the verb ends in ‘ie’, change the ending to ‘ying’.
    E.g. lie → lying
    die → dying
  • If the verb ends in a vowel + ‘r’ and the stress in on the last vowel, the ‘r’ is usually doubled.
    E.g. refer → referring
    prefer → preferring


Making the Present Progressive Tense negative

In the English language, negative forms of verbs are usually formed by an auxiliary verb and ‘not’. For example: She may not go out tonight. In the Present Progressive Tense, the verb ‘to be’ serves as an auxiliary verb, therefore, ‘not’ is added to ‘to be’. The negative of Present Progressive Tense is formed as follows:

Subject + conjugated form of ‘to be’ + not + Progressive Participle of Main Verb

‘To be’ and ‘not’ can be combined in informal language to a short form the following way:
is not → isn’t
are not → aren’t

Notice that there is no short negative form of ‘I am’. The correct form is ‘I’m not’. Remember to use the short form only in an informal environment. In a formal written context, always use the full form.

We aren’t making fun of you.
She isn’t joining us at the party.
I’m not dating anyone at the moment.

Yes/No questions in Present Progressive Tense

In the English language, questions are usually formed by switching the (first) auxiliary verb and the subject. For example:

She can speak English. → Can she speak English?

In Present Progressive Tense, the conjugated form of ‘to be’ is switched with the subject to form a question, followed by the -ing form of the verb.  For example:

I’m coming to the movies. → Are you coming to the movies?
Dad isn’t driving me to school this morning. → Isn’t dad driving you to school this morning?

Open-ended questions in Present Progressive Tense

In case of open-ended questions, always start with the questions word. After the questions word, follow the usual word order for questions: auxiliary verb – subject – main verb – object -etc. The auxiliary verb in Present Progressive is am/is/are, followed by the subject and the progressive participle (-ing form) of the action verb. For example,

Kate’s having an avocado toast for breakfast today. → What is she having for breakfast today?
Mom is cooking goulash for lunch. –> What is mom cooking for lunch? Who is cooking goulash for lunch? What is mom cooking goulash for?

Typical adverbs of Present Progressive Tense

today, at present, at the moment, still, now, right now, this morning / this evening etc., nowadays, these days

Some examples:

I’m having pizza for lunch today.
I’m craving pizza at the moment.
I’m still thinking about that pizza we had last night.
I’m going to this new pizzeria now.
I’m meeting my friends for pizza this evening.
I’m not eating much pizza these days.

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