What Are the Progressive Tenses? (with Examples)

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Progressive Tenses

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.

Slider Showing Verbs in the Progressive Aspect

The 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 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

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!

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.)

Why Should I Care about the Progressive Tenses?

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)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

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