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Verbs - Progressive Tense

Verbs - Progressive Tense

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Verbs – Progressive Tense


Hello! In this lesson, we are going to learn to use the present progressive tense. In previous lessons, we have learned to work with the simple past tense, the simple present, and the future. The present progressive is used to discuss events that are ongoing now. It is also used to discuss events in the near future.
The present progressive tense is formed of familiar parts: the conjugated "to be" verb and the base form of a verb plus "-ing" at the end of the base form of the verb. For example, this is the conjugation of the present progressive form of the verb "to work".

I am working.
You are working.
He is working.
She is working or Jennifer is working
It is working.
We are working.
They are working or David and Jennifer are working

To form questions with the present progressive verb tense, we invert the subject and conjugated verb "to be" like this:

Am I working?
Are you working?
Is he working? Or
Is David working?
Is she working?
Is it working?
Are we working?
Are they working? Or
Are Jennifer and David working?


Verbs which end with a consonant following a single vowel may double the final consonant before adding "-ing.". Provided that, in these verbs, the syllable in which the consonant is doubled is the stressed syllable of the word.  For example, look at the progressive form of these verbs:
"put - putting
sit- sitting
run –running
forget - forgetting"

By contrast, verbs which end in a consonant following a single vowel in which the syllable is not stressed do not always double the final consonant. In these verbs, the first syllable is stressed. For example, look at the progressive forms of these verbs:
"open – opening
listen – listening"
There are some exceptions to the rules, but we will introduce them as they occur in our lessons.
We use the present progressive tense to discuss actions that are ongoing at the present moment.  For example,  "Dad is sleeping now.", or "Dad is singing and Mom is listening now.".  We also use the present progressive tense to discuss jobs and general ongoing events that are occurring in a more general present time. For example, "My sister is learning English now.", "I am reading a good book now.".
We also use the present progressive tense to discuss events of the near future. These are events that are in the planning stage and are almost sure to happen. For example, we might say "I am working late tomorrow.", or "We cannot go to dinner tomorrow night. We are dancing tomorrow night.".  
Now that you have a general idea of how to use the present progressive tense, listen to this dialog.

David:What are you doing now?
Jennifer:  I am putting placemats on the table.
David:  What are you putting on the placemats?
Jennifer: I am putting plates on the placemats.
David: What are you putting beside the plates?
Jennifer: I am putting spoons beside the plates.
David: What are you putting beside the spoons?
Jennifer: I am putting knives beside the spoons.
David:  What can I do?
Jennifer: You can put forks beside the plates.
David: Now what can I do?
Jennifer:  You can sit in a chair.
David: What are we eating?
Jennifer: We are having rice and vegetables
David:  And we are eating soon!

Now that you have an idea of the usage of the present progressive tense, let us take a look at each sentence in the dialog.


At first, David asks Jennifer "What are you doing now?". Since he uses the present progressive tense, and he is speaking to Jennifer about what she is doing in the present moment, he could also have asked "What are you doing?". In this case, the time "now" is implied.

Jennifer answers "I am putting placemats on the table.". This means that she is putting placemats on the table currently, at the present moment.  She could have said, "I am putting placemats on the table now." .
David then asks "What are you putting on the placemats?".  The question means that Jennifer has changed activities and is putting something on the placemats at the present moment. He could have said 'What are you putting on the placemats now?", but again, the time "now" is implied in the question and current activity.
David's next two questions, "What are you putting beside the plates?" and "What are you putting beside the spoons?" imply that Jennifer's activities are ongoing and changing, and David is keeping up, minute-by-minute,  asking what she is doing at each successive moment.
David then asks"What can I do?". The modal verbs do not use progressive forms, even though there is sometimes a progressive, ongoing meaning implied.
David asks "What are we eating?". Since David and Jennifer are not eating yet, this is an example of the present progressive tense as it is used to discuss the near future. So the question is really asking what they are going to be eating soon.
Jennifer answers "We are having rice and vegetables.". This is also an example of the present progressive tense as it is used to discuss the near future. It really means that the plan is that they will soon eat rice and vegetables.
David's final sentence, "And we are eating soon!" is also an example of the present progressive as it is used to discuss the near future. It really means that the plan is that soon they will eat.
Now that you understand the usages of the present progressive tense, listen to the dialog again. Pay special attention to the different nuances of the present progressive tense – whether it is used to discuss ongoing events or events that are expected to occur in the near future.
David:               What are you doing now?
Jennifer:  I am putting placemats on the table.
David:  What are you putting on the placemats?
Jennifer: I am putting plates on the placemats.
David: What are you putting beside the plates?
Jennifer: I am putting spoons beside the plates.
David: What are you putting beside the spoons?
Jennifer: I am putting knives beside the spoons.
David:  What can I do?
Jennifer: You can put forks beside the plates.
David: Now what can I do?
Jennifer:  You can sit in a chair.
David: What are we eating?
Jennifer: We are having rice and vegetables
David:  And we are eating soon!

Great! The present progressive tense is useful. It is commonly used to discuss plans and inquire into people's plans. It is also used to talk about events as they are happening. You now know how to discuss your ongoing activities, so incorporate this ability into your English conversations!