This tense is used:
1. If we want to say that something is happening at the time of speaking. We often use it with time expressions such as now or at the moment.
I am doing housework at the moment.
You aren't listening to me now!
Look at him! What is he doing?
2. For temporary activities that are true now, but maybe not happening at the time of speaking. Time expressions such as today, this week or these days are typical of this use.
I am in London. I am learning English here.
She can't go out today. She is preparing for an exam.
You can't meet him this week. He is working in Bath.
3. For planned future arrangements. The time of the action must be given in the sentence (soon, tomorrow, on Monday, next week), otherwise it is not clear that we talk about future.
I am coming soon.
We are leaving on Monday.
She is starting next week.
4. With always to express the idea that something happens too often and it annoys the speaker.
I am always forgetting my keys.
He is always smoking in the living room!
We do not normally use in the continuous the following groups of verbs (so called state verbs):
1. Of senses: feel, hear, see, smell, taste. On the other hand, look, watch or listen are action verbs and can be used in the continuous:
I can hear you. - I am listening to you.
Can you see the bird? - Are you looking at the bird?
2. Of liking and disliking: like, love, hate, fear, detest, want, wish...
I like animals.
I hate snakes.
3. Of mental states: agree, believe, forget, know, remember, suppose, think...
I agree with you.
I suppose you are right.
4. Of permanent states: be, have, belong, contain, owe, own, possess...
This pen belongs to me.
I have a new pet.
5. Of appearance: seem, appear, look, sound...
It seems that it will rain.
Your new haircut looks really good.
If some of these verbs are used in the present continuous tense, they have a different meaning. In such a case they become action verbs.
I think he is my best friend. (mental state) - I'm thinking of giving him a present. (mental activitiy)
He has a new bathroom. (possess) - He is having a bath. (take a bath)
I see what you mean. (know) - I am seeing a doctor. I am ill. (visit)
The flower smells beautiful. (scent) - The dog is smelling the sausage. (sniff)
This wine tastes sour. (It has a sour taste.) - She is tasting the soup if it is warm enough.
Grammar rules PDF Printable grammar rules on the present tense with typical examples from everyday English.