What Is the Progressive Aspect? (with Examples)
Progressive AspectThe progressive aspect (or continuing aspect as it's sometimes called) is the aspect of a verb that expresses an ongoing action.
"Progressive aspect" is the collective term for verbs (in the past tense, present tense, or future tense) in a progressive tense.
The "Progressive (or Continuing) Aspect" VerbsThere are 12 tenses in total. The table below shows all four aspects and the three tenses in each aspect. The three "progressive (or continuing) aspect" tenses are highlighted in yellow.
|The "Simple Aspect" Tenses||Examples|
|The simple aspect is used to describe facts and habits.|
|Simple Present Tense|
|Simple Past Tense|
|Simple Future Tense|
|The "Progressive (or Continuing) Aspect" Tenses||Examples|
|The progressive aspect expresses ongoing actions.|
|Present Progressive Tense|
|Past Progressive Tense|
|Future Progressive Tense|
|The "Perfect (or Complete) Aspect" Tenses||Examples|
|The perfect aspect expresses completed actions.|
|Present Perfect Tense|
|Past Perfect Tense|
|Future Perfect Tense|
|The "Perfect Progressive Aspect" Tenses||Examples|
|The perfect progressive aspect expresses the end of an ongoing action.|
|Present Perfect Progressive Tense|
|Past Perfect Progressive Tense|
|Future Perfect Progressive Tense|
Slider Showing Verbs in the Progressive AspectThe following slider shows all 12 tenses. The progressive tenses (i.e., those in the progressive aspect) are highlighted with a yellow background.
Examples of Verbs in the Progressive AspectVerbs in the progressive aspect are recognizable by the present participle (i.e., the word that ends "-ing"). Here are some examples of verbs in the progressive aspect.
In the Past Tense
- He was singing. (past progressive tense)
- We were playing. (past progressive tense)
- I am leaving. (present progressive tense)
- They are diving. (present progressive tense)
- I will be flying. (future progressive tense)
- They will be acting. (future progressive tense)
Forming the Progressive AspectThe 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"+
- We were writing.
"is" or "are"+
- She is diving.
- They are eating.
- He will be flying.
Verb Tenses Showing the Progressive AspectHere 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 progressive (or continuing) aspect 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|
Verb Tense WidgetUse 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!
Why Should I Care about the Progressive Aspect?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., dancing, knowing, eating)
- Past participles (e.g., danced, known, eaten)