Present Progressive Tense | Examples & Use

The present progressive (also referred to as the present continuous) is a verb tense that is used when describing a temporary action that is currently happening. It can also be used when describing future plans (e.g., “She is starting a new job tomorrow”).

The present progressive uses a conjugated form of the auxiliary verb “be” along with the present participle (“-ing” form) of the main verb (e.g., “He is reading”).

Present progressive forms
Affirmative Negative Interrogative
I am going I am not going Am I going?
You are going You aren’t going Are you going?
He/she/it is going He/she/it isn’t going Is he/she/it going?
We are going We aren’t going Are we going?
You are going You aren’t going Are you going?
They are going They aren’t going Are they going?

How to use the present progressive

The form the verb “be” takes in the present progressive is determined by the subject. The first person (“I”) uses “am,” the third person singular (“he,” “she,” “it”) uses “is,” and all other persons (“we,” “you,” “they”) use “are.”

The subject and verb are often combined in a contraction (e.g., “he’s,” “I’m,” “we’re”), and the main verb is always in the present participle (“-ing”) form.

The present progressive is used to describe an ongoing (continuous) action or event. It is most frequently used when discussing current actions and future intentions or plans.

Present progressive examples
He is listening to music.

We are eating at that new restaurant tomorrow.

When is our train leaving?

The present progressive is also used in some other contexts:

  • Describing a change process that happens over time
  • Emphasizing (when used with the adverb “always”) that something happens repeatedly
  • Describing a new development or trend that differs from the past
Present progressive examples
The sea level is rising.

She is always making excuses.

Why are more people traveling to Europe these days?

When not to use the present progressive

The present progressive tense can only be used with dynamic verbs (also called action verbs), which describe an action or process.

Stative verbs—verbs that describe a state of being such as belief, emotion, perception, or possession—are not commonly used in the present progressive tense.

Stative verb examples
  • It is appearing that Braden is needing help.
  • It appears that Braden needs help.
  • I am agreeing that eggs are costing too much.
  • I agree that eggs cost too much.

Some verbs can be stative or dynamic depending on their specific context. For example, “think” can be used to describe a thought process (dynamic) or a fixed belief or opinion (stative).

Dynamic vs stative examples
  • I am thinking about what to do with these old photos.
  • I think about what to do with these old photos.
  • I am thinking that I will be free tomorrow.
  • I think that I will be free tomorrow.

Present progressive vs simple present

To decide whether to use the present progressive (e.g., “is waiting”) or the simple present (e.g., “waits”), consider the following guidelines:

  • When describing an action or event currently in progress, use the present progressive.
  • When describing a general truth, habit, or fixed state, use the simple present.
Present progressive vs simple present examples
She’s sleeping right now, so she can’t go out.

Trees produce oxygen.

I run three miles each day.

Rhys is a nurse.

The two tenses can both be used to talk about events that will happen in the near future. There are some differences in their use, though:

  • The present progressive is used when describing an action that is about to be performed or a future plan that is not necessarily specific.
  • The simple present is used when describing an official, clearly defined future plan or a recurring event.
Present progressive vs simple present examples
I am driving to school. Do you need a ride?

I am going to the park tomorrow.

The conference begins tomorrow at 1 p.m.

The class meets every Monday at 6 p.m.

Present progressive vs present perfect progressive

The present perfect progressive tense (e.g., “has been talking”) is sometimes confused with the present progressive, but these tenses are not interchangeable.

Both tenses are used to describe an ongoing action. However, there are two ways the present perfect progressive differs from the present progressive:

  • It is used when the current action started in the past and is often used with an adverbial phrase that makes clear when the action began (e.g., “since Tuesday” or “for the past three months”).
  • It can refer to a very recently completed action.
Present perfect progressive examples
She has been teaching elementary school for three years.

The baby has been crying all day, but he just fell asleep.

How to form negatives

Negative statements can be formed in the present progressive by adding the adverb not in between the two verbs. Often, the first verb and adverb are combined into a contraction (“aren’t” or “isn’t). This does not happen in the first person in standard English, though, since “amn’t” is not a word.

Negative present progressive examples
I am not working today.

We aren’t going to the party.

Petra isn’t sleeping very well these days.

How to form questions

In the present progressive, yes–no questions can be formed by placing the subject between the auxiliary verb (“is,” “are,” or “am”) and the present participle (“-ing” verb).

Present progressive question examples
Is Hayden going to the movies with us?

Are they eating octopus?

Other types of questions are formed with wh-words (interrogative pronouns such as “what” and interrogative adverbs such as “when”). These questions follow the same word order as yes–no questions but with the addition of a wh-word at the beginning of the sentence.

Present progressive wh-word question examples
When are you leaving for the airport?

What is Aditi bringing to the potluck?

How to form the passive voice

The passive voice is used to indicate that the subject is being acted upon rather than performing an action.

In the present progressive, the passive voice is formed with the following components: the subject, a form of the verb “be” (“am,” “are,” or “is”), the present participle “being,” and the past participle of the main verb, which describes the action.

Present progressive passive construction examples
Andre is being tested for the flu.

I am being evaluated by my boss.

The plants are being overtaken by weeds.

Frequently asked questions about present progressive

What is the “-ing” form of a verb?

The verb form that ends in “-ing” is known as the present participle. Present participles are used in progressive verb tenses (e.g., “I am studying,” “she had been eating”) and as adjectives (e.g., “a tiring hike”).

The “-ing” form of a verb is also used in gerunds, but gerunds operate as nouns (e.g., “Skiing is dangerous”).

When do we use the present progressive?

The present progressive tense (also known as the present continuous) is used to describe an action that is currently happening (e.g., “He is working now”) or plans or intentions (e.g., “I am starting a new job next week”).

The present progressive differs from the simple present, which is used to describe a general truth (e.g., “Birds fly south for winter”), a habit (e.g., “Monica teaches on Thursdays”), or a fixed state (e.g., “He looks like his dad”).

Is this article helpful?
Kayla Anderson Hewitt, MA

Kayla has a master's degree in teaching English as a second language. She has taught university-level ESL and first-year composition courses. She also has 15 years of experience as an editor.