Present Tense

Not every sentence you say transports eternal wisdom. (You usually get quite close, though.) What you need is a form to be used for actions that are only temporary and just true for the moment of speaking. This is where the form below becomes important.

Present Progressive

In present tense, the progressive form is mainly used to express that the action is currently in progress. Here is where learners usually meet the ending '-ing' for the first time. There are two more encounters to come (see Identifying -ing forms for details). So don't get confused.

Actions happening at moment of speech

Use the present progressive to express that something is happening while you are speaking.

Logical consequence:

Verbs that cannot be imagined as an action (so-called stative verbs, such as "like", "want" or "hate") do not have a progressive form. This is true for all tenses. But be careful: Some verbs can be both stative and dynamic.

Temporary information (as opposed to the 'eternal truths' of simple present)

Use present progressive if the statement is only true for a limited period of time at present (see last example).

[form of 'be' that fits to the subject only "am", "is" or "are" in present tense ] + [Verb with ending '-ing']

A silent -e at the end of the verb is dropped (e.g. care - caring, sue - suing).

'ie' after consonant becomes 'y' (e.g. lie - lying, die - dying).

Single consonants after a short vowel are doubled (e.g. run - running).

But

shout - shouting (no double 't'), because the vowel sound is not short.

He is drinking 'is' = 3(rd) person form of 'be' + '-ing' to the verb tea.

You are reading 'are' = 2(nd) person form of 'be' + '-ing' to the verb my book.

(No double 'd' in 'reading', because the vowel before is not short.)

I am sitting 'am' = 1(st) person singular of 'be' + '-ing' to the verb in front of my computer.

(Double 't' in 'sitting', because the vowel before is short.)

We are making 'are' = plural of 'be' + '-ing' to the verb a birthday cake.

(Silent 'e' in 'make' is dropped.)


We are living This means: We haven't always lived in Dresden, but right now we do. in Dresden.

(Silent 'e' in 'live' is dropped.)



Simple Present or Present Progressive?

The bad news is that simple and progressive forms can identify you as a non-native speaker. The very bad news is: they will. You don't have a chance.
O.K., now you are in the mood to look at some examples.

Case 1: Boring details

You are sitting in a pub with this nice person you just met, and over a drink you are speaking about interesting details of your life. Right now you are talking about your daily routine. "Every morning I get up at seven," you say, "and then I wash and dress. After that I have breakfast and..."
This is when you hear quick steps and you find out you are sitting alone.
Good. Now you have time for grammatical observations.
You used simple present for your every-morning-story, because your daily morning routine is something you repeat without much variation. That's why we call it routine, right? It is also something you are not doing right now. Right now you are sitting in a pub. Alone. Thinking about grammar. You'd better go home now. Go to bed. And, like always, in the morning you'll get up at seven...

Case 2: Interesting details

Somehow your boyfriend or girlfriend (whatever you prefer) found out. You were in a pub with somebody else. Now (s)he wants to know everything and hires a private detective to report about your every step. It is seven o'clock in the morning. The detective is lying on the roof of the house on the other side of the street, watches you through a telescope and reports live to your partner on the mobile phone. This is what he says:
"(S)he is getting up. Now (s)he is going to the bathroom. The door is open. (S)he is washing. No, wait. (S)he is taking that red pyjamas off, I can seeeeee..."
His picture will be on the front page of the local newspaper tomorrow, his body down on the pavement in front of the house, his mobile phone rammed into his right ear. What he leaves behind are a telescope and some sentences in present progressive, which he produced, because what he said was happening exactly while he was talking about it.

Case 3: About being clever

You are three years old. Your mum is in the living-room with those best friends of hers. She wants to show off in front of her guests and asks you, "what is 7 + 4 - 10?" You don't answer and show her the finger. "You are so clever," she says. Everybody agrees.

Now you are seventeen. Your mum is in the same living-room and those best friends of hers are also still the same. They are chattering. You interrupt and ask if you can go to this hot new place in town. "No," your mother says, trying to show off again, "I don't like the kind of clubbers there. They are too old for you." Before you start thinking, you say, "they aren't half your age."
"You are being very clever," is what your mother answers and you can read your next spare time activities from her face.

The first example expresses a general statement. Cleverness is something you keep for life. It does not change every now and then and that's why it is called a state and such verb forms like "be clever" or "love" or "like" are called state (or 'stative') verbs. As such, they are not used in the progressive form. There is no more action in "you are clever" than there is in "the world is round".

The second example describes some behaviour, which will change. Very soon. As soon as those friends of your mother's are out of the house. Believe me. It was nothing unchangeable, stative but rather something spontaneous, dynamic. So the stative verb form 'be clever' is used like a dynamic verb here and means something like "You just were a big mouth (and you will be sorry)." Mothers...

Case 4: Where McDonalds is wrong

You switch an your TV and watch ... commercials. Everybody knows them. One is telling you how happy your life will be as soon as you go to McDonalds to eat the inedible. The message is combined with the slogan "I'm loving it." Well, somebody must, and everybody has the right to indigestion. The explanations above tell you that McDonalds obviously see "love" in this phrase as an action in progress. Well, love can be an action in progress (ask your parents for details), but this is off-topic here.
The sentence in the commercial somehow expresses that the feeling is a temporary one and will only come to you at this sacred place. But it also sends a shiver down the spine of every language-aware person, telling them 'Stay away! Awful things are going on here.' I will never understand marketing...