The main mistake English learners make when using the present continuous

The main problem that students have with the present tenses is that they use the present simple too much, but some learners do the opposite.

Basically, the present simple tense is used to talk about long-term situations, or situations that are always true.  The present continuous tense is used to talk about temporary situations.

For more information about when you should use present simple and when you should use present continuous, check out my diagram, which will hopefully make it simple.

Below are a few examples of why it sounds strange to native speakers if you use the present continuous instead of the present simple:

It makes all of your life situations sound like they are only temporary

We all have long term life situations such as where we live, where we work, what our interests and hobbies are etc., sometimes these are only temporary, but often these are long term.  With these you can only use present continuous if they are really temporary.

Here are some examples:

Work:  ‘I am working for Johnsone LTD’ this sounds like your position is only temporary, and can sound like you want to leave, so make sure your boss doesn’t hear you! This should be ‘I work for JohnsoneLTD’.  Of course if the job is only a temporary job then you can use present continuous.

Living situation: ‘I am living with my wife and 2 children’.  Again this sounds only temporary, and can sound like you want to leave them.  Here you should say ‘I live with my wife and 2 children’. If you are married to a native English speaker be careful with using the present continuous!

Hobbies / Interests:I am listening to rock music’.  This sounds like you are only listening to rock music at the moment and you are waiting for another music style to replace it! This should be ‘I listen to rock music’.

‘I am going to the gym’ This sounds like you are only going to the gym temporarily and for some specific reason e.g. trying to lose weight.

‘I am running twice a week’ This sounds like you are running twice a week temporarily for some reason e.g. you are going to run a marathon.

If you would like to have any of these words explained further, or if you would like to see some more examples, feel free to email me at [email protected], or message me on Skype at live:fluencyspace! Also if you have any other questions about English I’m happy to answer your emails or I will write a post about it, keep the emails coming! Check out more useful grammar for business English right here!


 David Cox

 Fluency Space

 Make the world your fluency space. Business English for career and life success

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