English/Parts of Speech/Verbs/Tenses/Progressive Tenses

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The progressive tenses (or continuous tenses) are used to talk about things that are happening at that moment. A simple rule is:Past progressive is used to talk about things happening in the past and were not finished then. Present progressive is used to talk about things happening now. But more importantly, continuous tenses are used by speakers to organize information in certain ways that are in contrast to simple tenses. It is actually misleading to speak of a 'tense' since progressives are not primarily used to express past, present or future. Rather than expressing action in time they are used descriptively, to set the action in scene. For instance, when describing a photograph, the present continuous is used. In a story set in the past, actions expressed in the past progressive create a background for the real action, which is expressed in the simple past. Here is an example: "I was walking in the park one day, when I ran into a friend." In the same way theFuture progressive is used to describe a moment in the future. Here are some examples:

  • I was driving to work at 8am this morning, the time the accident occured. (Past progressive)
  • I am watching TV at the moment, could you come back later? (Present progressive)
  • I will be eating dinner at 9pm this evening, so why don't you come at 9:30. (Future progressive)

You may go back to Simple Tenses or go on to the next page about Perfect Tenses.

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