Britlish

Present Continuous - GA4

Aspect and Tenses Course Grammar

Grammar

These Activities focus on the grammar of English. English grammar compared to other grammars is quite simple, but in its simplicity lies its complexity. The Activities here cover all aspects of English grammar from the aspects and tenses to sentence structures. English grammar covers the structure of words, phrases, clauses, sentences, and entire texts. There are eight parts of speech in English: nouns, determiners, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions. The largest of these parts of speech are the nouns which, unlike most European languages, do not have grammatical gender. English grammar has largely done away with the inflectional case system of other European languages and bases its grammar on analytic constructions. The Activities in this category will go some way to helping you get a better understanding of English grammar.    

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I told you about the past and present tenses in Grammar Activation Pack 1. I also introduced you to the aspects – simple, continuous, and perfect, and showed you why the three key verbs, do, be, and have, are so important. In Grammar Activation Packs 2 and 3, I looked at the Present and Past tense of the simple aspect. In this Grammar Activation Pack, I am going to tell you how the second of the key verbs, be, is used for the continuous aspect, present tense. The continuous aspect is marked by the auxiliary verb be plus an ing form of a non-finite verb. There are 5 finite inflected forms of the verb be: am, is, are, and was, were. You already know that the inflected forms of be, am, is, and are, mark the present tense and that the inflected forms of be, was, and were, mark the past tense. In this Grammar Activation Pack, I will be looking at the present tense, continuous aspect. I will look at the past tense, continuous aspect in the next pack. This British English grammar is essential for all students of English and the many exercises in the pack will help you master it quickly and enjoyably.    

Aspect and Tenses Course

Present Continuous

Grammar Activation Pack 4

Key Verbs and Aspects

I told you about the past and present tenses in Grammar Activation Pack 1.

I also introduced you to the aspects – simple, continuous, and perfect, and showed you why the three key verbs, do, be, and have, are so important.

In Grammar Activation Packs 2 and 3, I looked at the Present and Past tense of the simple aspect.

In this Grammar Activation Pack, I am going to tell you how the second of the key verbs, be, is used for the continuous aspect, present tense.

Present Tense Be

The three present tense inflected forms of the verb be, am, is, and are, are used for different subjects.

Am is used with:

First person singular – I am.

Are is used with:

First person plural – We are.

Second person singular and plural – You are.

Third person plural – They are.

Is is used with:

The gender specific, third person, singular subject pronouns – He is, and She is.

The gender neutral, third person, singular subject pronoun – It is.

Copular Be

The auxiliary form of the verb be in combination with the ing form of a non-finite verb marks the continuous aspect.

Be is often used without an ing form.

In these cases be does not mark the continuous aspect and instead acts as the copular verb be.

The copular be really means equal to (=).

I am happy means I = happy.

We are happy means We = happy.

You are happy means You = happy.

They are happy means They = happy. 

He is happy means He = happy.

She is happy means She = happy.

It is happy means It = happy.

Other Copular Verbs

Some grammarians say that there are other copular verbs besides be.

They claim that the verbs, appear, seem, look, sound, smell, taste, feel, become and get are also copular.

I disagree and accept only be as copular.

The other verbs use the hidden do and so form sentences in the simple aspect.

They do appear to be simple, don’t they.

I do get the feeling they are not copular.

It does look to me like they are not copular.

Other grammarians refer to these as pseudo-copulars.

Finite or Non-Finite Verbs

A finite verb has a subject and can function as the root of an independent clause.

An independent clause is basically a full sentence and expresses a single thought.

The finite present tense forms of be are am, is, and are.

Non-finite verbs are the infinitives, the participles, and the gerunds.

The non-finite forms of be are be, being, and been.

I’ll look in detail at finite and non-finite verbs in later Grammar Activation Packs.

Continuous Aspect

The continuous aspect is marked by the auxiliary verb be plus an ing form of a non-finite verb.

There are 5 finite inflected forms of the verb be:

am, is, are, and was, were.

You already know that the inflected forms of be, am, is, and are, mark the present tense and that the inflected forms of be, was, and were, mark the past tense.

In this Grammar Activation Pack, I will be looking at the present tense, continuous aspect.

I will look at the past tense, continuous aspect in the next pack.

Continuous Aspect

An ing with no verb to be is a non-finite gerund.

A verb to be without ing is a copular be, not the continuous aspect.

Only if one of the five inflected forms of be comes before an ing do we have the continuous aspect:

I am teaching.

We are learning.

You are learning.

They are learning. 

He is learning.

She is learning.

It is learning.

Present Continuous Closed Questions

Let’s take a look at the previous statements turned into present continuous closed questions.

Am I teaching?

Are we learning?

Are you learning?

Are they learning? 

Is he learning?

Is she learning?

Is it learning?

The continuous aspect is always verb to be plus ing.

Closed questions will only get you a yes or no answer. For more information, you need open or 5WH questions.

5WH Questions

Let’s take a look at some examples of present tense, continuous aspect questions using the 5WH question words.

Why am I teaching?

When are we learning?

Where are you learning?

How are they learning? 

What is he learning?

Why is she learning?

How is it learning?

These open or 5WH questions get you more than a yes or no response.

The continuous aspect is always verb to be plus ing.

5WH Subject Questions

Present tense, continuous aspect subject questions replace the subject of the sentence with the question word who or, if the subject is not a person, what.

Who is teaching?

Richard is teaching.

What is learning?

The machine is learning.

Who are learning?

My students are learning.

What are learning? 

The machines are learning.

The question word, who or what, is the subject of the sentence.

The continuous aspect is always verb to be plus ing.

Present Continuous Negative

Let’s take a look at some examples of present tense, continuous aspect, negative sentences.

I am not teaching.

We are not learning.

You are not learning.

They are not learning. 

He is not learning.

She is not learning.

It is not learning.

Negative sentences are very easy to form as you just have to put a not after the auxiliary be.

The continuous aspect is always verb to be plus ing.

Negative Contractions

When we speak, we usually use contractions.

When written, a contraction uses an apostrophe to show that some letters are missing.

I’m not teaching.

We’re not learning.

You’re not learning.

They’re not learning. 

He’s not learning.

She’s not learning.

It’s not learning.

We can also contract is not to isn’t and are not to aren’t.

The continuous aspect is always verb to be plus ing.

Continuous Aspect Uses

The continuous aspect means, as its name suggests, that an action continues at a particular time.

The time is marked by an inflected form of be which indicates the tense of the verb. For the continuous aspect, the verb be always comes before an ing form of a non-finite verb.

I am teaching.

You are learning.

He is learning.

The be plus ing tells us that this is the continuous aspect, the aspect that shows a continuous action.

The tense of be is present and is shown by one of the three present tense inflected forms of be; am, is, and are.

Therefore, this action is continuing at the present moment and we call this the present continuous.

Present Continuous or Present Simple

In Grammar Activation Pack 2, we looked at the present tense, simple aspect.

Now that we have learnt about the present tense, simple and continuous aspects, we can compare the two aspects.

I teach English.

I am teaching English.

In both of these statements, the subject is I, and the non-finite verb is teach.

However, the first statement, with the hidden finite verb, do, is the simple aspect, and the second, with the finite verb, be plus the non-finite ing form is the continuous aspect.

Present Continuous or Present Simple

I teach English.

This tells us that I teach English regularly, that it is a truth, that it is my habit.

We understand that what I do generally is teach English.

I am teaching English.

The am says that it is happening now, in the present.

The be plus ing says that the aspect is continuous.

This tells us that at this moment in time I am, for a continuous period of time, teaching English.

It does not say whether I normally teach English, though we can infer this from the statement, nor does it say if I will teach English in the future.

Present Continuous or Present Simple

What do I do for a living?

I teach English.

What am I doing at the moment.

I am teaching English at the moment.

The first answer in the present simple tells us that this is what I always do.

The second answer in the present continuous says that I am in the middle of doing something and have not finished.

I live in Spain so I am learning Spanish.

I am not learning Spanish at the moment, obviously, as I am teaching English.

Changes Around Now

I am learning Spanish.

As I am teaching English, I cannot be learning Spanish right now, but I am doing so around this period in time.

So whenever we talk about things happening around now, we use the present continuous.

Captain Britlish is learning Kung Fu.

He is getting better at it.

He is beginning to get the hang of it.

Aspect and Tenses

A comprehensive English course covering the tenses and aspects of English in an easy-to-understand format with lots of self-test exercises to check your understanding. You will learn all you need to know about the 3 Key Verbs of English: Be, Do, Have. This course will let you see just how simple English grammar is. We will explore the present simple, the past simple, the present continuous, the post continuous, the present perfect and the present perfect past and present, along with present perfect time markers, the present perfect continuous, the past perfect and the past perfect continuous.

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Aspects and Tenses - GA1

Welcome to the first in my series of Grammar Activation Packs at Britlish.com. Together, the Grammar Activation Packs combine to provide you with a clear overview of English grammar in use. When I teach grammar to my students, I first teach them what I call the three keys to English grammar. The three keys are the three verbs, do, be, and have. Understand these three verbs and you will see just how easy English grammar really is. I have created some fun exercises to help you activate what you have learnt. This British English grammar is essential for all students of English and the many exercises in the pack will help you master it quickly and enjoyably.

Categories: Grammar | English in Use


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Future 1 - GA12

In the previous Grammar Activation Packs I have introduced you to the present and the past tenses, along with the simple, continuous, and perfect aspects. I also mentioned that English has only the two tenses, present and past. So where does this leave us when we want to talk about the future? Don’t worry, there are several ways that we can talk about the future, including using the present tense, which is what I am going to explain in this lesson. There are two aspects of the present tense that we can use to talk about the future. We can use the simple aspect which uses the auxiliary verb do. We can also use the continuous aspect, which uses the auxiliary verb be, and the ing form of a non-finite verb.    

Categories: Grammar | Phrasal Verbs


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Future 2 - GA13

In the previous Grammar Activation Packs I have introduced you to the present and the past tenses, along with the simple, continuous, and perfect aspects. I also mentioned that English has only the two tenses, present and past. This lesson looks at Will or Shall for Future, Asking for Decisions, Promises and Threats, Decisions Made at the Moment, Predicting, Conditionals, Giving Orders or Instructions, Negative Will for Refusals, Negative Shall for Refusals, things Not Rooted in Present, and Future Time Indicators. This British English grammar is essential for all students of English and the many exercises in the pack will help you master it quickly and enjoyably.    

Categories: Grammar


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