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present progressive

The structure of the present progressive in English Definition: A verb construction (made up of a present form of the verb "to be" plus a present participle) that conveys a sense of ongoing action at the present time. The present progressive may also be used to refer to things that are planned for the future (for example, "I am resigning tomorrow").

Examples and Observations:

"I hope that while so many people are out smelling the flowers, someone is taking the time to plant some." (Herbert Rappaport) "I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving." (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.) "The key to failure is trying to please everybody." (Bill Cosby) "I am an American aquarium drinker I assassin down the avenue I'm hiding out in the big city blinking What was I thinking when I let go of you? . . . I am trying to break your heart." (Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." Nonesuch, 2002) Tomorrow we are having a pasta party. "When telling a story, the performer knows exactly what is coming next and uses the illusion of spontaneity as a device to enhance the story." (Robert Fulghum, Uh-Oh, Here Comes Christmas, 2001)

Uses of the present progressive:


o o

to refer to events that are in progress at the time of speaking or writing to refer to things that are taking place or that are true around the moment of speaking or writing

o o o o

to describe actions that are repeated or regular but are either temporary or may be judged to be temporary to describe regular actions in relation to a particular time or a specified event, especially when those events interrupt something already in progress to refer to gradual processes of change with adverbs of indefinite frequency (such as always, constantly, continually, forever) to describe events that are regular but unplanned and often undesired

(adapted from R. Carter and M. McCarthy, Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006)

The Simple Present and the Present Progressive


"The present progressive tense is especially difficult for those whose native language does not use this tense. . . . I am searching for an error in the document. [The search is occurring now and may continue.] In contrast, the simple present tense more often relates to habitual actions: I search for errors in my documents. [I regularly search for errors, but I am not necessarily searching now.]" (Gerald J. Alred et al., The Business Writer's Handbook. Macmillan, 2006)

"It is instructive to compare the present simple (54a) with the present progressive (54b): (54a) I live in London. (54b) I am living in London. The sense of (54a) is that this is a relatively permanent state of affairs--there is no suggestion that the speaker is intending to leave any time soon; in (54b), the sense is that the situation is temporary; London is where the speaker happens to live at the moment, but this could change. "The present progressive can also carry a 'habitual' sense in an appropriate context. We see this in (55). (55) I've recently changed my newspaper; now I'm reading the Guardian. Again, the present progressive is frequently used to refer to situations that have yet to begin: (56) They're flying to Rome in August."