Progressive Tenses

by Craig Shrives

What Are the Progressive Tenses? (with Examples)

Progressive tense is a category of verb tense used to describe ongoing actions. The progressive tenses are the past progressive tense, the present progressive tense, and the future progressive tense. The progressive tenses are sometimes called the "continuing" or "continuous" tenses.

Examples of Verbs in a Progressive Tense

Here are some examples of verbs in a progressive tense:

The Past Progressive Tense
  • I was going.
  • He was seeing.
The Present Progressive Tense
  • I am going.
  • He is seeing.
The Future Progressive Tense
  • I will be going.
  • He will be seeing.

Examples of Verbs in the Progressive Tenses

The progressive tenses are recognizable by the present participle (i.e., the word that ends "-ing"). Here are some examples of verbs in the progressive tenses.

In the Past Tense:
  • He was playing.
  • (past progressive tense)
  • They were singing.
  • (past progressive tense)
In the Present Tense:
  • I am diving.
  • (present progressive tense)
  • We are leaving.
  • (present progressive tense)
In the Future Tense:
  • I will be talking.
  • (future progressive tense)
  • We will be running.
  • (future progressive tense)

Forming the Progressive Tenses

The progressive aspect is formed using a form of the auxiliary verb "to be" and the present participle. For example:

Forming the Past Progressive Tense
"was" or "were"
+
[present participle]
  • She was thinking.
  • We were filming.
Forming the Present Progressive Tense
"is" or "are"
+
[present participle]
  • She is eating.
  • We are playing.
Forming the Future Progressive Tense
"will be"
+
[present participle]
  • He will be presenting.

Verb Tenses Showing the Progressive Tenses

Here are all 12 tenses. The progressive (or continuing) tenses are shaded in yellow.
The 4 Past Tenses Example
simple past tense I went
past progressive tense I was going
past perfect tense I had gone
past perfect progressive tense I had been going
The 4 Present Tenses Example
simple present tense I go
present progressive tense I am going
present perfect tense I have gone
present perfect progressive tense I have been going
The 4 Future Tenses Example
simple future tense I will go
future progressive tense I will be going
future perfect tense I will have gone
future perfect progressive tense I will have been going
The tables below show all 12 tenses so you can see the progressive tenses among the other tenses. (You can change the verb by clicking one of the green buttons.)

Top 10 Regular Verbs

Top 10 Irregular Verbs

All 4 Past Tenses

PersonSimple PastPast Progressive TensePast Perfect TensePast Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
The simple past tense is for a completed activity that happened in the past.
  • was present participle
  • were present participle
  • was present participle
  • were present participle
  • were present participle
  • were present participle
The past progressive tense is for an ongoing activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action.
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
The past perfect tense is for emphasizing that an action was completed before another took place.
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
The past perfect progressive tense is for showing that an ongoing action in the past has ended.

All 4 Present Tenses

PersonSimple PresentPresent Progressive TensePresent Perfect TensePresent Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • base form
  • base form
  • 3rd pers sing present
  • base form
  • base form
  • base form
The simple present tense is mostly for a fact or a habit.
  • am present participle
  • are present participle
  • is present participle
  • are present participle
  • are present participle
  • are present participle
The present progressive tense is for an ongoing action in the present.
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
  • has past participle
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
The present perfect tense is for an action that began in the past. (Often, the action continues into the present.)
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • has been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
The present perfect progressive tense is for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present (or finished very recently).

All 4 Future Tenses

PersonSimple FutureFuture Progressive TenseFuture Perfect TenseFuture Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
The simple future tense is for an action that will occur in the future.
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
The future progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will occur in the future.
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
The future perfect tense is for an action that will have been completed at some point in the future.
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
The future perfect progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will be completed at some specified time in the future.

The Progressive Aspect

The term progressive aspect is used to group all verbs (past, present, and future) in the progressive tenses. (Remember that the aspect of a verb is determined by whether its action is ongoing or completed.) If you're learning or teaching English, you must spend time learning the tenses because expressing when something occurs is a fundamental skill when communicating. Remember that tenses do not just state whether an action is a past, present, or future one. Tenses also state whether an action is habitual, completed, or ongoing. (These are called the aspects of the tenses.).

Here's a good tip to help you with mastering the tenses: Concentrate on the following:
  • The verb "to be" in all its forms (am, is, are, was, were, will be)
  • The verb "to have" in all its forms (has, have, had, will have)
  • Present participles, i.e., the "ing" form of verbs (e.g., driving, knowing, playing)
  • Past participles (e.g., driven, known, played)
Next lesson >

See Also

Take a test on the progressive tense What is verb tense? What is aspect? What is the progressive aspect? What is the past progressive tense? What is the present progressive tense? What is the future progressive tense? Glossary of grammatical terms

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