Continuous verb forms

Continuous verb forms in English


If we want to speak English well, understand English well, write English well it is necessary to find out how to understand English grammar. How we use English verb forms (tenses) is essential to developing good communication in English.

This is part of a series of master classes about how we use English grammar correctly. I am not going to talk about how we construct the verb form but I want to give the basic concepts of how these grammatical forms are used by native English speakers. If you want to see my advice and tips of how to construct English verb forms see here

The basics:

All continuous verb forms (sometimes called progressive or durative)


  • Present Continuous
  • Past Continuous
  • Present Perfect Continuous
  • Past Perfect Continuous
  • Future Continuous
  • Future Perfect Continuous

 and their Passive forms:

  • Present Continuous Passive
  • Past Continuous Passive
  • Present Perfect Continuous Passive
  • Past Perfect Continuous Passive
  • Future Continuous Passive
  • Future Perfect Continuous Passive

 are usually concerned with an action that is taking place at a certain moment in time. We put more emphasis on the action itself rather than if it is completed or not.

 The Present Continuous

 for example tells us about something that is temporary at a certain moment that includes now.

 (Note: it is also used to talk about an arrangement for the future)

  1. I am writing this article about Continuous verb forms at the moment
  2. It is raining a little but the sun is shining.
  3. The people outside are talking about yesterday’s football match


  1. Leonard is an architect, he works in a big office in London
  2. This month he is working in Paris, he is supervising a new construction.

Both of the sentences above (1 and 2) are correct at the same time. In (1) we use the Present Simple to explain Leonard’s normal, habitual situation. In (2) we use the Present Continuous to explain a temporary situation. He is in Paris but his permanent office is in London

The Past Continuous is used to talk about an action at one moment in the past or the general situation.

  •  When I woke up yesterday I looked out of the window and I saw that the sun was shining, two people were sitting on a bench, they were eating a sandwich and some dogs were playing.

 We don’t know when the sun started shining, or when the people went to sit on the bench, or when the dogs started playing. But we do know that, at the moment I looked out of my window, that was the situation.

  •  - What were you doing yesterday at 8.05pm?
  •  - I was walking home from work.


Was going to, for incompleted intentions:

  •  John was going to come for supper yesterday but he had to stay at work to prepare a meeting for today


The Future Continuous:

We use the Future Continuous to talk about an action at a moment in the future.

  • At 2.00pm on Friday I’ll be sitting on the plane on my way to New York