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I.

How to Teach the Present


Continuous
Teaching the present continuous usually takes place after the present, past and
future simple forms have been introduced. However, many books and curricula
choose to introduce the present continuous once the present simple has been
taught. Personally, I find this can be confusing as students can have difficulties
understanding the subtlety of something that has happens as a routine, and
action that takes places at the moment of speaking.

Add to this the fact that continuous forms are not used with stative verbs, and
you might find students confused. In any case, as with other tenses, it's important
to provide as much context as possible by using appropriate time
expressions such as now, at the moment, currently, etc. when introducing the
present continuous form. The use of the present continuous to express future
scheduled events is best left for intermediate level classes.

Introducing the Present Continuous

Start by Modeling the Present Continuous

Begin teaching the present continuous by speaking about what is happening in


the classroom at the moment of introduction. Once students recognized this
usage, extend to other things you know are happening now. This can include
simple facts such as The sun is shining at the moment. We're learning English at
the moment. etc. Make sure to mix it up by using a number of different subjects.

I'm teaching the present continuous right now.


My wife is working in her office at the moment.
Those boys are playing tennis over there.
etc.

Choose a magazine or web page with lots of activity, go through a number of


pages and ask students questions based on the photo.

What are they doing now?


What is she holding in her hand?
Which sport are they playing?
etc.
To teach the negative form, use the magazine or web pages to ask yes / no
questions focusing on eliciting a negative response. You may want to model a few
examples before asking students.

Is she playing tennis? - No, she isn't playing tennis. She's playing golf.
Is he wearing shoes? - No, he's wearing boots.
(Asking students) Are they eating lunch?
Is she driving a car?
etc.

Once students have practiced a few rounds of questions, distribute magazines or


other pictures around the classroom and ask students to grill each other on what
is happening at the moment.

Practicing the Present Continuous

Explaining the Present Continuous on the Board

Use a present continuous timeline to illustrate the fact that the present
continuous is used to express what is happening at the moment. If you feel
comfortable that the level of the class, introduce the idea that the present
continuous can be used to speak about what is happening around the present
moment in time. It's a good idea at this point to contrast the present continuous
auxiliary verb 'to be' with other auxiliary verbs, pointing out that 'ing' must be
added to the verb in the present continuous form.

Comprehension Activities

Comprehension activities such as using photos in magazines will help with the
present continuous.

Present continuous dialogues can also help illustrate the form. Present
continuous worksheets will help tie in the form with appropriate time
expressions. Review quizzes contrasting present simple with the present
continuous will also help.

Continued Activity Practice

It's a good idea to compare and contrast the present continuous with the present
simple form once students have understood the difference. Using the present
continuous for other purposes such as discussing present projects at work or
speaking about future scheduled meetings will help students become familiar
with other uses of the present continuous form.
Challenges with the Present Continuous

The greatest challenge with the present continuous is understanding the


difference between a routine action (present simple), and an activity occurring at
the moment.

It's quite common for students to use the present continuous to speak about daily
habits once they've learned the form, so comparing the two forms early on will
help students understand the differences. Finally, students might also have
difficulties understanding that stative verbs may not be used with continuous
forms.

II.
THE PRESENT CONTINUOUS TENSE, ALSO KNOWN AS THE PRESENT PROGRESSIVE
TENSE IN SOME GRAMMAR BOOKS, IS ONE OF THE MOST OFTEN USED TENSES IN
ENGLISH. IT IS ALSO ONE OF THE TENSES THAT ENGLISH LEARNERSUSE
INCORRECTLY. IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THE PRESENT CONTINUOUS
TENSE IS GENERALLY USED TO EXPRESS SOMETHING HAPPENING AT THE MOMENT
OF SPEAKING. IT IS NOT USED TO EXPRESS EVERYDAY HABITS AND ROUTINES.
EVERYDAY HABITS AND ROUTINES ARE EXPRESSED USING THE PRESENT SIMPLE
TENSE. IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THE PRESENT CONTINUOUS IS
ONLY USED WITH ACTION VERBS AND NOT STATIVE VERBS.

Listed below are examples, uses and structure of the Present Continuous followed
by a quiz.

Teachers will find this guide to teaching the present continuous helpful.

NOW, AT THE MOMENT

Use the present continuous tense to express what is happening "now" or "at the
moment". This form is used to express daily actions.

What are you doing at the moment?


She's reading in the garden now.
They're not standing in the rain. They're waiting in the garage.
AROUND THE PRESENT MOMENT - CURRENTLY

Use the present to continuous to explain actions happening "currently" or around


the present moment in time. It is often used in business situations to explain
current projects.

I'm reading last quarter's sales results this week.


Whose account are you working on currently?
She's studying hard for her final exam this month.

FOR FUTURE PLANS

The present continuous is also used to speak about future plans. This form is
often used when talking about a schedule.

We're having leftovers this evening.


What are you doing tomorrow afternoon?
I'm meeting Tom at 2 o'clock for a meeting.

PRESENT CONTINUOUS TIME EXPRESSONS

They're area number of common time expressions used with the present
continuous. These include:

at the moment, now, right now, today, this week, this month, tomorrow, next
week, currently

I'm reading the paper at the moment.


He's working in the garden right now.
We're studying Shakespeare in class today.
I'm working on a new account this month.
We're having lunch next week.
They're currently looking for new employees.

STRUCTURE

For positive sentences conjugate the helping verb "be" + verb + -ing.

I'm (I am) -> working today.


You're (You are) -> working today.
He's (He is) -> working today.
She's (She is) -> working today.
It's (It is) -> working today.
We're (We are) -> working today.
You're (You are) -> working today.
They're (They are) -> working today.

For negative sentences conjugate the helping verb "be" + not + verb + -ing.

I'm not (I am not) -> coming this evening.


You aren't (You are not) -> coming this evening.
He isn't (He is not) -> coming this evening.
She isn't (She is not) -> coming this evening.
It isn't (It is not) -> coming this evening.
We aren't (We are not) -> coming this evening.
You aren't (You are not) -> coming this evening.
They aren't (They are not) -> coming this evening.

For que4tions use a question word + conjugate the helping verb 'be' + subject +
verb + -ing

What -> are you -> doing this afternoon?


What -> is he -> doing this afternoon?
What -> is she -> doing this afternoon?
What -> is it -> doing this afternoon?
What -> are we -> doing this afternoon?
What -> are you -> doing this afternoon?
What -> are they -> doing this afternoon?

PRESENT CONTINUOUS PASSIVE

The present continuous can also be used in the passive voice.

Remember that the passive voice conjugates the verb 'to be'. Seeing the
construction 'is being' or 'are being' can seem strange to many learners. The
reason for this construction is that 'ing' is added to the conjugated verb which is
'to be' in the case of modals.

To contstruct a passive sentence use the passive subject + auxiliary verb be + to


be + ing + past participle

Cars are being made in this factory at the moment.


English is being taught by the teacher now.
Steak is being eaten by the people at table 12.
etc.

The passive use of the present continuous is possible, but is rarely used and
sounds artificial.
The present continuous is similar in construction to other continuous forms
including the past continuous, the present perfect continuous, the past perfect
continuous, the future continuous and the future perfect continuous forms.

III. English uses the present continuous tense to describe things that are
happening now. We use the time expressions 'right now', 'now', 'today', 'this
afternoon, morning, evening' and 'at the moment' to speak about actions that are
happening at the moment.

What are you doing right now?


She's reading in the garden at the moment.
They're not standing in the rain right now.
Tim is playing tennis this afternoon.
My friends and I are watching a film at the moment.

It's important for English beginners to know that the present simple and the
present continuous are different.

The present simple speaks about what happens every day, NOT what is
happening at the moment. It's common to use the present simple with adverbs of
frequency such as 'usually', 'sometimes', and 'often'.

I usually drive to work.


Alice doesn't have to get up early on Saturdays.
The boys play soccer on Friday evenings.
The teacher often shows us a video in class.
My car gets 23 miles to the gallon.

The present continuous expresses something that is happening now, at the


moment:

I'm reading "The Surgeon's Mate" by Patrick O'Brian.


Whose account are you working on?
She's studying hard for her final exam.
What are you cooking for dinner? It smells good!
They're aren't working right now. They're watching TV.

The present continuous also expresses actions that are happening in a period
around the present moment in time.
This is very common in business situations to discuss projects around the present
time.

We're having leftovers this evening.


What are you doing tomorrow afternoon?
She isn't coming on Friday.
We're working on the Smith account at the moment.
She's learning the tenses this month.

The present continuous is also used for future plans and arrangements, especially
in business.

We're having a meeting at six tomorrow.


Where are you staying in New York?
She isn't coming to the presentation on Friday.
I'm flying to Tokyo next week.
The CEO is giving a presentation next week.

DON'T USE THE PRESENT CONTINUOUS FOR STATIVE VERBS

The present continuous is used only with action verbs. Actions verbs express
things that we do. The present continuous is NOT used with stative verbs that
express a feeling, belief, state, etc. such as the verbs 'hope', 'want', 'like', 'believe',
etc.

I hope to see him today. NOT I am hoping to seeing him today.


I want some ice cream right-now. NOT I am wanting some ice-cream right now.

Common present continuous time expressions include:

at the moment, now, today, this week, this month, tomorrow, next week (for
future arrangements ), currently

PRESENT CONTINUOUS STRUCTURE

Here are sentences showing the structure of positive and negative sentences, as
well as questions. One sentence is provided for each type of subject.

Positive sentences: Conjugate the helping verb "be" + verb -ing:

I'm (I am) working today.


You're (You are) studying English at the moment.
He's (He is) He's working on the report today.
She's (She is) planning a vacation in Hawaii.
It's (It is) raining right now.
We're (We are) playing golf this afternoon.
You're (You are) not paying attention, are you?
They're (They are) waiting for the train.

Negative sentences: Conjugate the helping verb "be" + not + verb -ing.

I'm not (I am not) thinking about my vacation right now.


You aren't (You are not) sleeping at the moment.
He isn't (He is not) watching the TV.
She isn't (She is not) doing her homework today.
It isn't (It is not) snowing today.
We aren't (We are not) staying in New York.
You aren't (You are not) playing chess at the moment.
They aren't (They are not) working this week.

Questions: Wh? + 'be' + subject + verb -ing:

What am I thinking?
What are you doing?
Where is he sitting?
When is she coming?
How is it doing?
When are we leaving?
What are you eating for lunch?
What are they doing this afternoon?

Teachers can use this guide to teaching the present continuous for further ideas
and exercises.