Continuing Aspect

Our Story

Search...

What Is the Continuing Aspect? (with Examples)

The continuing aspect (or progressive aspect as it's also called) is the aspect of a verb that expresses an ongoing action.

In other words, "continuing aspect" is the collective term for verbs (in the past tense, present tense, or future tense) in a continuing (or progressive) tense.

The "Continuing (or Progressive) Aspect" Verbs

In total, there are 12 tenses. The table below shows all four aspects and the three tenses in each aspect. The three "continuing (or progressive) aspect" tenses are highlighted in yellow.
The "Simple Aspect" TensesExamples
The simple aspect is used to describe facts and habits.
Simple Present Tense
  • The rabbit eats the lettuce.
  • Simple Past Tense
  • The rabbit ate the lettuce.
  • Simple Future Tense
  • The rabbit will eat the lettuce.
  •   
    The "Continuing (or Progressive) Aspect" TensesExamples
    The continuing aspect expresses ongoing actions.
    Present Continuous Tense
  • The rabbit is eating the lettuce.
  • Past Continuous Tense
  • The rabbit was eating the lettuce.
  • Future Continuous Tense
  • The rabbit will be eating the lettuce.
  •   
    The "Perfect (or Complete) Aspect" TensesExamples
    The perfect aspect expresses completed actions.
    Present Perfect Tense
  • The rabbit has eaten the lettuce.
  • Past Perfect Tense
  • The rabbit had eaten the lettuce.
  • Future Perfect Tense
  • The rabbit will have eaten the lettuce.
  •   
    The "Perfect Continuous Aspect" TensesExamples
    The perfect continuous aspect expresses the end of an ongoing action.
    Present Perfect Continuous Tense
  • The whale has been eating the lettuce.
  • Past Perfect Continuous Tense
  • The whale had been eating the lettuce.
  • Future Perfect Continuous Tense
  • The whale will have been eating the lettuce.
  • Slider Showing Verbs in the Continuing Aspect

    The following slider shows all 12 tenses. The continuing tenses (i.e., those in the continuing aspect) are highlighted with a yellow background.

    Examples of Verbs in the Continuing Aspect

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

    In the Past Tense
    • I was going.
    • (past continuing tense)
    • They were eating.
    • (past continuing tense)
    In the Present Tense
    • I am going.
    • (present continuing tense)
    • We are cleaning.
    • (present continuing tense)
    In the Future Tense
    • I will be going.
    • (future continuing tense)
    • You will be acting.
    • (future continuing tense)

    Forming the Continuing (Progressive) Aspect

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

    Forming the Past Continuing Tense

    "was" or "were"
    +
    [present participle]
    • They were eating.
    Forming the Present Continuing Tense

    "is" or "are"
    +
    [present participle]
    • He is eating.
    • We are eating.
    Forming the Future Continuing Tense

    "will be"
    +
    [present participle]
    • He will be eating.

    Verb Tenses Showing the Continuing Aspect

    Here are the 12 tenses again. This time, the tenses are ordered under the headings past tense, present tense, and future tense. As before, the tenses in the continuing (or progressive) aspect are shaded in yellow.
    The 4 Past Tenses Example
    simple past tense I went
    past continuing tense I was going
    past perfect tense I had gone
    past perfect continuing tense I had been going
    The 4 Present Tenses Example
    simple present tense I go
    present continuing tense I am going
    present perfect tense I have gone
    present perfect continuing tense I have been going
    The 4 Future Tenses Example
    simple future tense I will go
    future continuing tense I will be going
    future perfect tense I will have gone
    future perfect continuing tense I will have been going

    Verb Tense Widget

    Use this widget to learn about the different tenses. How do you use this widget? Well, if there's a button, a drop-down menu, or a , then you can click it!
    to base form

    ( verb)

    Select the tenses.

    Present Tenses

    Simple Present Tense The simple present tense is mostly used to describe facts and habits. More...(opens new tab) I base form you base form he/she/it 3rd pers sing present we base form you base form they base form Present Progressive Tense The present progressive tense is used for an ongoing action in the present. More...(opens new tab) I am present participle you are present participle he/she/it is present participle we are present participle you are present participle they are present participle Present Perfect Tense The present perfect tense is used for actions that began in the past. (Often, the actions continue into the present.) More...(opens new tab) I have past participle you have past participle he/she/it has past participle we have past participle you have past participle they have past participle Present Perfect Progressive Tense The present perfect progressive tense is used for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present, or a continuous activity that began in past but has now finished (usually very recently). More...(opens new tab) I have been present participle you have been present participle he/she/it has been present participle we have been present participle you have been present participle they have been present participle

    Past Tenses

    Simple Past The simple past tense is used to describe a completed activity that happened in the past. More...(opens new tab) I past tense you past tense he/she/it past tense we past tense you past tense they past tense Past Progressive Tense The past progressive tense is used to describe an ongoing activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action. More...(opens new tab) I was present participle you were present participle he/she/it was present participle we were present participle you were present participle they were present participle Past Perfect Tense The past perfect tense is used to emphasize that an action was completed before another took place. More...(opens new tab) I had past participle you had past participle he/she/it had past participle we had past participle you had past participle they had past participle Past Perfect Progressive Tense The past perfect progressive tense is used to show that an ongoing action in the past has ended. More...(opens new tab) I had been present participle you had been present participle he/she/it had been present participle we had been present participle you had been present participle they had been present participle

    Future Tenses

    Simple Future The simple future tense is used for an action that will occur in the future. More...(opens new tab) I will base form you will base form he/she/it will base form we will base form you will base form they will base form Future Progressive Tense The future progressive tense is used for an ongoing action that will occur in the future. More...(opens new tab) I will be present participle you will be present participle he/she/it will be present participle we will be present participle you will be present participle they will be present participle Future Perfect Tense The future perfect tense is used to describe an action that will have been completed at some point in the future. More...(opens new tab) I will have past participle you will have past participle he/she/it will have past participle we will have past participle you will have past participle they will have past participle Future Perfect Progressive Tense The future perfect progressive tense is used for an ongoing action that will be completed at some specified time in the future. More...(opens new tab) I will have been present participle you will have been present participle he/she/it will have been present participle we will have been present participle you will have been present participle they will have been present participle

    Why Should I Care about the Continuing Aspect?

    Native English speakers can use all twelve tenses without giving the grammar a second thought. However, if you're learning or teaching English, you must spend time learning the tenses because expressing when something occurs is a fundamental communication skill. Remember though that tenses do not just tell us whether something is a past, present, or future action. They also tell us whether the action is habitual, completed, or ongoing (called the aspects).

    The trick to learning tenses is mastering 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., running, dancing, seeing)
    • Past participles (e.g., ran, danced, seen)
    Ready for the Test?
    Here is a confirmatory test for this lesson.

    This test can also be:
    • Edited (i.e., you can delete questions and play with the order of the questions).
    • Printed to create a handout.
    • Sent electronically to friends or students.

    See Also

    What is the progressive aspect? What is aspect? What are the progressive tenses? What are the perfect progressive tenses? What is the past progressive tense? What is the present progressive tense? What is the future progressive tense? What is the past perfect progressive Tense? What is the present perfect progressive tense? What is the future perfect progressive tense?