Form of the Present Progressive Tense

The progressive is formed with the present of ''be + the -ing form''.

I am > I'm > waiting.
You are > You're > waiting.
He is > He's > writing.
She is > She's > running.
It is > It's > beginning.
We are > We're > lying.
You are > You're > lying.
They are > They're > lying.


Spelling: how to add '-ing' to a verb


We can add -ing to most verbs without changing the spelling of their base forms. Other examples: beat/beating, carry/carrying, catch/catching, drink/drinking, enjoy/enjoying, hurry/hurrying.


If a verb ends in -e, omit the -e and add -ing. Other examples: come/coming, have/having, make/making, ride/riding, use/using. This rule does not apply to verbs ending in double e: agree/agreeing, see/seeing; or to age/ageing and singe/singeing.


A verb that is spelt with a single vowel followed by a single consonant doubles its final consonant. Other examples: hit/hitting, let/letting, put/putting, run/running, sit/sitting.

Compare: e.g. beat/beating which is not spelt with a single vowel and which therefore does not double its final consonant.


With two-syllable verbs, the final consonant is normally doubled when the last syllable is stressed. Other examples: for'get/forgetting, pre'fer/preferring, up'set/upsetting. Compare: 'benefit/benefiting, 'differ/differing and 'profit/profiting which are stressed on their first syllables and do not double their final consonants. Note 'label/labelling, 'quarrel/quarrelling, 'signal/signalling and 'travel/travelling (BrE) which are exceptions to this rule. Compare: labeling, quarreling, signaling, traveling (AmE): -ic at the end of a verb changes to -ick when we add -ing: panic/panicking, picnic/picknicking, traffic/trafficking.


Other examples: die/dying, tie/tying.

Uses of the Present Progressive Tense

Actions in progress at the moment of speaking

We use the Present Progressive to describe actions or events which are in progress at the moment of speaking. To emphasize this, we often use adverbials like now, at the moment, just, etc.:

  • Someone's knocking at the door. Can you answer it?

  • What are you doing? - I'm just tying up my shoe-laces.

  • He's working at the moment, so he can't come to the telephone.

Actions in progress are seen as uncompleted:

  • He's talking to his girlfriend on the phone.

We can emphasize the idea of duration with still:

  • He's still talking to his girlfriend on the phone.


Temporary situations

The Present Progressive can be used to describe actions and situations which may not have been happening long, or which are thought of as being in progress for a limited period:

  • What's your daughter doing these days?

  • She's studying English at Durham University.

Such situations may not be happening at the moment of speaking:

  • Don't take that ladder away. Your father's using it. (i.e. but perhaps not at the moment)

  • She's at her best when she's making big decisions.

Temporary events may be in progress at the moment of speaking:

  • The river is flowing very fast after last night's rain.

We also use the Present Progressive to describe current trends:

  • People are becoming less tolerant of smoking these days.


Planned actions: future reference

We use the Present Progressive to refer to activities and events planned for the future. We generally need an adverbial unless the meaning is clear from the context:

  • We're spending next winter in Australia.


This use of the Present Progressive is also commonly associated with future arrival and departure and occurs with verbs like arrive, come, go, leave, etc. to describe travel arrangements:

  • He's arriving tomorrow morning on the 13.27 train.

The adverbial and the context prevent confusion with the present progressive to describe an action which is in progress at the time of speaking:

  • Look! The train's leaving. (i.e. it's actually moving)


Repeated actions

The adverbs always (in the sense of 'frequently'), constantly, continually, forever, perpetually and repeatedly can be used with progressive forms to describe continually-repeated actions:

  • She's always helping people.

Some stative verbs can have progressive forms with always, etc.:

  • I'm always hearing strange stories about him.

Sometimes there can be implied complaint or annoyance in this use of the progressive when it refers to something that happens too often:

  • Our burglar alarm is forever going off for no reason.