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Step by step English grammar! Verbs ~ Present continuous tense

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Present continuous - ing

Present continuous is for verbs that are happening now or near the time of speaking. The verb has started but has not finished yet.

I’m (am) doing
he/she/it is doing
we/they are doing

* I’m making my English blog. = Now (at the time of writing) I started to make this blog but I haven’t finished writing it yet.

A: “Let’s call Kevin!”
B: “It’s only 7:00 am, I think he is sleeping.”

“My teacher is yelling at me because I don’t pay attention in class, but I’m not listening.”

A: “Where are your children?”
B: “They are upstairs getting ready for bed.” = My children are in the middle of changing into their pajamas and brushing their teeth before they go to bed.

“With the Internet, the world is becoming very small.”

It’s raining, could you please close the window?” = Rain is falling now. The rain has started falling but it hasn't stopped.

Present continuous tense

We use NOT with the present continuous to show something isn’t happening at the time of speaking.

“Let’s go out, it’s not raining anymore.”

“My teacher is yelling at me because I don’t pay attention in class, but I’m not listening.”

Present continuous tense

We can also use the present continuous tense if an action has started but not yet finished, even if the action is not happening at the time of speaking.

Please look at the following examples.

I’m reading the biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs now, it’s interesting.”

~ At the time I am writing this sentence I am not reading the book. I’ve started reading the book last week but I haven't finished it yet. I'm reading the book. (Started but not finished.)

“Dave is studying Japanese, learning a second language will make him a better English teacher.”

~ Dave is not studying Japanese right now but he began studying years ago and he is not finished yet.

“Hector is looking for a new apartment.”

~ Hector is at school now, but he started looking for a new apartment 2 days ago and he hasn’t found one yet. The action has not finished.

Present continuous tense

We use the present continuous tense to talk about changes that are happening.

Verbs like: 

change or become

"The weather is changing a lot. Temperatures are getting warmer all over the world."

"My son will graduate university this Spring. He is becoming a man. I'm very proud of him!"

increase, rise, grow, decrease, fall, drop

"House prices in Toronto are rising. You should buy a house soon."

"Japan's population is decreasing."

get, improve, start

"It's getting late, time to go to bed."

"I've been studying hard for 4 months and my English is really improving."

Some verbs we don’t often use the present continuous form with.

Here are a few examples:


“I believe in ghosts.” NOT – I am believing in ghosts.
“I think it will rain tomorrow.” NOT - I am thinking it will rain.

*We can say "...thinking about something."

"Jennifer is thinking about going to law school after she graduates."

●Verbs that describe our senses don’t often use –ing

“Do you see me in this company photo?” 
NOT – are you seeing me

“I don’t like that restaurant, it smells bad.” 
NOT – it is smelling bad

*We can use the verb ‘TO BE’ in the present continuous with adjectives to describe how someone is being/acting/behaving now, compared to how they usually act.

Present continuous tense

Rick is being very strange today.” = Today he is acting strange, but it is unusual for him.

Compare with

“Rick is strange.” = He is usually strange, this is his regular condition.

Watch the video version of this post!

More great English grammar
verb posts!

English grammar - Double negatives

English grammar - Double negatives

I was reading a book the other day. In the book, a university student says: 

"There is nothing I can't do."

This is a common phrase that uses 2 negative words in a sentence. 

"There is nothing I can't do."

Nothing = no thing. Can't = can not.
 This is the same as saying "I can do anything."

Word order is important!

If we change the sentence pattern a little the sentence becomes strange.

"I can't do nothing." ???

English grammar - Double negatives

In this sentence pattern, the 2 negatives would actually make a positive.

● Remember: 
Nothing = no thing. Can't = can not. So this sentence is saying "I can not do no thing." If you can't do no thing, can you do something?

The meaning is confusing so this sentence is not acceptable.

"I can't do nothing."

What about our first sentence "There is nothing I can't do." Is it correct grammar? According to Oxford 
Double negatives are still widely used in English where they don’t seem to cause any confusion as to the intended meaning. Nevertheless, they aren’t considered acceptable in current standard English and you should avoid them in all but very informal situations. Just use a single negative instead.
So the sentence "There is nothing I can't do." is not correct grammar, but it is acceptable in less formal situations because the meaning is clear.

English grammar - Double negatives

Many song lyrics sometimes will use a double negative for effect, for the art of songwriting, but we don't use these in conversation. If you told me you "can't get no satisfaction" I would correct your grammar. 

But if you sang...

English grammar - Double negatives

I would understand that incorrect grammar can make the song more interesting! ♫

Let's look at how we express ourselves in more detail and we'll look closely at negatives.

There are 3 basic ways to communicate, affirmative (positive), negative and interrogative (question).

(+) "Eric likes pizza."                  "She's bored."

(-) "Eric doesn't like pizza."        "She's not bored."

(?) "Does Eric like pizza?"          "Is she bored?"

You can see affirmatives and negatives are direct opposites. We can use the adverb not (or the contraction n't) to show a negative or we can use a negative word like never, nowhere, no-one etc. Words with a negative prefix like un, in, dis or non also have a negative meaning. Examples:

  • unpopular - not popular
  • incomplete not finished
  • dishonest not honest
  • non-smoking  you cannot smoke here
vocabulary list

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Here is another example:
"Kyle doesn't know nothing about computers." 
The speaker is using 2 negative words to strongly show that Kyle doesn't know computers well. Here the 2 negatives cancel each other, so this grammar is incorrect. We don't use this sentence in natural English.

It's correct to use a single negative to express this idea. Here are 2 ways that are grammatically correct. Each sentence uses only 1 negative.

"Kyle doesn't know anything about computers." 
"Kyle knows nothing about computers."

double negative

Double negatives are sometimes used by native speakers if the meaning is clear. 
"The puppy in the window was so cute! I couldn't not buy him!" 
This means ~ I had to buy the puppy because he was so cute.

double negative

You may have heard double negatives in popular movies or songs. The following phrase is from a popular song from 1974 and I hear it in movies and on TV sometimes:
"You ain't seen nothing yet." 
This means ~ Something special or great is coming. (If you think what happened was good, get ready for something greater.) 
Check out these 2 short video clips:


If double negatives are used in the same sentence to emphasize a negative meaning the sentence is not acceptable.

"Kyle doesn't know nothing about computers."

At the beginning of this post, we learned that "There is nothing I can't do." is acceptable because we can understand the intended meaning clearly. This sentence also has a positive meaning. "I can do anything."

Here is one more possible example of an acceptable double negative with a positive meaning.

"I don't regret not going to the party."

This means that I'm not sad or upset that I didn't go.

The sentence "Kyle doesn't know nothing about computers." fails because it is trying to express a negative meaning.

Are you still confused? DON'T WORRY!!!! Just stick to the positive vocabulary to express yourself :) If you hear a double negative that sounds odd but you can sense the meaning is positive, now you can understand it!

Here is a list of some songs that use double negatives. The songs have YouTube links (with lyrics) in case you want to listen to them!

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones

Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

Don't Come Around Here No More - Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

I Don't Trust Nobody - George Thorogood

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet - Bachman - Turner Overdrive

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double negatives

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