Lesson Transcript

Hi, everybody. My name is Alisha. In this episode, I'm going to talk about the present progressive tense and the past progressive tense. You might also know these as the continuous tense, but many people have questions about the difference between these two. So, I'm going to talk about a few different ways that we can use these grammar points and some patterns that you might commonly see. So, let's begin.
First, let's look at in general the progressive or the continuous tense. When should we use it? We use these tenses for continuing actions, so their actions that are temporary. So, they're only for a short period of time or for a limited period of time. So, these are ongoing actions during a certain time period. So, the time period can be short, it can be very long many years, but it's something that's temporary. So, depending on the situation, you can choose to apply the progressive or the continuous tense. It just depends on kind of the action, and yeah, the period of time. So, it's sort of up to you to make that decision in some cases, but we'll see a few examples of maybe some common ways to use this.
Another point I want to make about the progressive tense is that there are some verbs that are rarely used or it's fairly uncommon for these verbs to be used in the progressive tense. So, it's a category really, a verb. So, that means, for example, your mental state verbs like "think" or "know" or "understand," and emotion verbs, like for example, "like" or "love." So, these are verbs which typically we don't use in the progressive tense. Of course sometimes we do like, "I'm thinking about," for example, is a common one. But verbs, for example, the verb "like," we don't generally say very commonly, "I am liking" or "He is loving," or something like that. Generally, we use these more for the simple present tense or the simple past tense. So, they're a bit more common in that type of grammar. So, we won't see that so much today.
Okay. So, with this in mind, let's begin with the present tense; the present progressive tense or the present continuous tense. A few things I want to talk about with the present form, first, as we've talked about already up here, is for actions that are happening now. So, it's present tense, meaning, they're occurring now, something that is happening now. So, basically, "I am teaching," for example. So, remember, we see the progressive tense in this "ending, this "-ing" ending on our verbs. In this case, "I am teaching." It's something happening now. "You are listening" in this case, "-ing" form. "It is raining when we talk about the weather," or, "He is taking a shower." So, something that is happening now. It's just a short period of time, a temporary action. We can use the present progressive tense to talk about that.
So, to kind of give a visual of this then, I've created a timeline up here on the top right. So, this point here, this is the present. I'm talking about now. If you can imagine, this is an action that is happening around to the present time. So, maybe I started teaching, for example, a few minutes ago. I'm teaching now. And then in the future, maybe it's going to finish very soon. So, this is maybe a good way to visualize the present progressive tense, something that's continuing and it's going to end maybe in the near future, depending on the action. So, that might be helpful.
The second point I want to talk about with the present progressive tense though is how we can use it for trends. So, here, I talked about how we use it for actions like that we are in control, or someone else is in control of. We can also use the present progressive tense, however, for trends. So, something happening in your community or in your society, for example. So, I have here, "Lots of people are watching Black Mirror on Netflix these days." So, this could be one example. This is an example perhaps of a recent trend I have noticed. Here, I've got the progressive tense to show that maybe it's temporary, it's a trend really.
Another example. Twitter is becoming a place for up-to-the-minute news, for example. So, this is another example, something that's just kind of happening recently or some trend you've noticed recently. You could apply this or you could explain this rather with the present progressive tense. Alright, final plan or final -- sorry, final use of this I want to talk about, it's for future plans. So, we can use the present progressive tense actually to talk about future plans. It's slightly different. This grammar point is slightly different but you will see it it's similar to "going to," using "going to."
If you have a plan that you are sure it's 100% definite you are going to do that thing, you can describe that plan using the progressive tense. So, for example, "I'm going to the beach tomorrow." So, here, I've used going in the progressive tense. This means this is something I am definitely going to do. I'm going to the beach tomorrow, but you will see this progressive tense form used. Same thing in the second example sentence. We are baking a cake for my friend's birthday party. So, again, a temporary action not something we do every day kind of a special action, something that's only for a limited time period, but it's something I've decided to do. It's definite in the future so I can use this progressive form of the verb to describe that. So, these are three ways that you may see the present progressive form used.
Okay. Let's continue on then to the past progressive. So, the rules that we talked about for present progressive like actions that are happening now can still apply in the past. It's just that the action has already completed so to give a visual then this is an action that was continuing in the past. It's finished. We're done with this action. It's over. It has stopped, but it was continuing at some point. So, we often include a specific point in time along with this. You might not necessarily see this here because that's an action happening now, but in the past, if we need to explain clearly when an action was happening, we can attach the specific point in time.
Let's look at a couple of examples. First, I was doing my homework at 8 p.m. last night. So, here, "I was doing" my work, here is our past progressive tense and here we have the specific point in time 8 p.m. last night so when was I doing my homework at 8 p.m. last night. If I say I was doing my homework, we don't know when. If I say I am doing my homework, it means now. So, it's very clear. Therefore, in the past, we don't know when the action was happening unless we attach a specific point in time let's look at one more example. "He was driving to work at 9:00 this morning." So, here is our specific point in time. So, both of these sentences, it's like when would I use the sentence, how do I know when I need to use this sentence.
These are perhaps responses to a question like, "What were you doing last night?" or "What were you doing this morning? What was he doing this morning?" If you need information about someone's activities, you could use a question like that and expect to get an answer like this. So, sometimes these questions imply a little bit of like suspicion like, "What were you doing last night?" or "What was he doing this morning?" So, something that you don't know some action, a temporary action, you don't know about another person. So, there might be a little element of suspicion here. But these are ways to talk about a continuing action in the past.
Okay. I want to talk about two other patterns though. The first one is for interrupted actions. So, we can use the past progressive to talk about an interrupted action, and this is something that we'll see. We use the word "when" to describe this. So, first, I want to introduce the examples and then I want to talk about it more. Let's look at this. "I was listening to music when the phone rang." So, here, I have my past progressive, "was listening to music." Here, I have "when, when the phone rang." And here, the second action in the sentence is in the simple past tense. So, with past tense I have here. So, this is the action that was continuing, and then something happened that stopped this action. So, on our timeline, if you want to imagine it, this point is like an action continuing, but then stopped and was replaced by a different action. Actually, they should probably be in the past though here.
Something in the past was continuing something happened. In this case, the phone rang. Something happened here. And my action may be changed to a different action. This is sort of a visualization of what happened in this sentence. "When" shows us the point at which something changed. "When" shows us that moment of interruption. So, we see past progressive in the first part, when to show the point of change, and simple past tense to show the action that interrupted the first action. So, there's a lot happening here.
Let's look at another example. "He was cleaning his house when the electricity went out." So, "the electricity went out" means stopped or turned off. The electricity went out. It went off. So, here, again past progressive, "He was cleaning his house when," is my point of interruption, "when the electricity went out." So, he's cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, and then the electricity went out. So, something happened and then maybe he had to change his action here. So, we use when and the simple past tense to show an interrupted action.
Alright. Last thing I want to talk about here is for simultaneous actions. We can use the past progressive tense. Simultaneous means at the same time as something else. So, two actions happening at the same time. For this one, you'll notice that we use the word "while." "While" is used here. So, let's look at the examples. "I was listening to music while doing my homework." Here, I have the progressive tense in both parts of the sentence and I've connected it with while in this case. So, "while" shows that the two things are happening at the same time. So, you could say, "I was listening to music and doing my homework." That's pretty clear. But if you really want to emphasize that nuance of those two things happening at the same time, you can use "while."
Let's look at the last example. She was texting her friends while cooking dinner so this while that these two things are happening at the same time. This part shows us it was happening in the past as well. So, these are a few situations where you might see the past progressive tense, but they're referring to continuing actions and maybe an action that stopped or maybe an action that is going at the same time as another action. So, there's a lot of stuff we can do with the past progressive and the present progressive tense.
Alright. So, I know that was a lot of information but I hope that it was helpful for you. Thanks very much for watching this episode and I will see you again soon. Bye, bye.


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Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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Wednesday at 07:11 PM
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Hi there Abdeljelil,

Thanks for writing to us!

It would be due to the speaker implying that 'homework' is something that has been done in the past and will be continuing in to the future. It is therefore said in past continuous tense. I see your confusion though.

I hope this helps. ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ‘



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abdeljelil eljemai
Wednesday at 12:28 AM
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please I get confused about this sentence: I was doing my homework at 8 pm last night

my question is why we don't use the simple past here because this action happened in the past at a specific time and was finished.

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Sunday at 09:58 AM
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Hello Percy,

That's great news! Glad we could help you!

I'm happy to know you're finding EnglishClass101 so useful, and I wish you the best in your studies.

Don't hesitate to let us know if you need anything! ๐Ÿ˜„



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Percy Torres
Wednesday at 02:15 AM
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I finally understood these 2 topics ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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Sunday at 05:26 PM
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Hi Mukti,

You're welcome. ๐Ÿ˜‡

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Kind regards,


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Mukti Prakash Datta
Sunday at 03:19 AM
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Sunday at 11:17 AM
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Hello Antonini,

Thanks for the post and the positive feedback!

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Antonini Daniele
Friday at 07:03 AM
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Tuesday at 06:48 PM
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Hi Joรฃo,

Thank you for your kind feedback!

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Joao Martins (Brazil)
Tuesday at 10:04 AM
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Hi Alisha, I love your classes. โค๏ธ๏ธ