Grammar Toolbox: Present progressive

The present progressive is formed by using the verb to be followed by the -ing form of the main verb, e.g. The man is knitting.

The progressive is used about a situation that is going on right now:

  • A: What’s that noise?
  • B: Paul is playing the guitar again.


We do not use the progressive about habits or about situations that occur repeatedly:

  • Paul plays the guitar. He really loves his hobby.



Write a few sentences about what is going on right now at your school. You could just take a look out the window, but you can also try picture the different classrooms and the various activities that are taking place there. Remember to use the present progressive.

Here is your opening: “Right now we are doing grammar. Outside, some pupils are …” Now you continue.


A small warning

Norwegians tend to overuse the present progressive -ing form once they learn it (probably because it sounds really English!) But you could be sending the wrong message. Look at the following dialogue:

Tom: Have you got any hobbies?

Knut: Yes, I’m playing football.

Here Knut is either kicking the ball as he answers (in which case Tom’s question sounds rather stupid), or else football just isn’t his usual hobby, just a temporary one. More likely, Knut has got it wrong. What he meant to say was:

Knut: Yes, I play football.

  • So: I am painting the house now
  • But: I paint the house every year



  1. Work in groups. Ask each other questions like in the dialogue above, and practice not using the progressive!
  2. Each student in the group tells the others five things he or she (always, often, sometimes) does on Tuesdays, but not today. Example: Every Tuesday I play computer games, but today I am playing football.


A rule - and an exeption

We have learned that the progressive is used for describing actions that are happening as we speak, e.g. “Look, the ice is melting.” Adverbs like always, never, sometimes, often do not use the progressive, e.g. “The ice always melts before Easter.”

However, there is an exception. When we want to express that a repeated activity is irritating, we use the progressive with the adverb always:

  • He’s always complaining!
  • Those boys are always fighting!



Write a “complaining” sentence (like the ones above) about the following people:

  1. The paperboy who whistles (plystre) all the time.
  2. The teacher who gives you homework.
  3. The friend you are trying to ring, but whose number is always engaged.
  4. The classmate who likes to play the fool.
  5. The neighbour’s baby who cries a lot.