Progressive verb tenses show us an ongoing action. Also known as the continuous verb tenses, these conjugations explain when exactly an action is occurring. Keep reading to learn how to conjugate the three progressive verb tenses to best describe an action happening in the present, past or future.
How to Conjugate Progressive Verb Tenses (With Printable)
Conjugate Progressive Verbs Tenses: Add -ing and a Helping Verb
- drink - drinking
- kick - kicking
- swim - swimming
The progressive form of a verb is the same in any tense, whether it's present progressive, past progressive or future progressive tense. What determines the verb's tense is the helping verb you add. For example:
- present progressive - I am drinking water. (happening now)
- past progressive - He was kicking the soccer ball. (was happening in the past)
- future progressive - They will be swimming tomorrow. (will be happening later on)
Present Progressive Tense: Am, Is and Are
The present progressive tense describes what is happening right at this moment. When you're talking about the here and now, use the present form of "to be" (am, is and are) as a helping verb to match your subject.
- I am learning about world religions.
- It is raining outside.
- We are looking for a new home.
- I am diving into the pool.
- Paula's leg is healing.
Notice that these actions can occur in the short term (such as "diving" or "raining") or long term (such as "learning" or "healing"). As long as the action is still ongoing, it's considered present progressive.
Past Progressive Tense: Was and Were
English speakers use the past progressive tense to discuss an event in the past that was continuously occurring, but was interrupted or is now over. The helping verb to use in the past progressive English verb tense is the past form "to be" (was or were).
- I was walking the dog when it started raining.
- The secretary was updating her social media when I arrived at work.
- People were wearing baggy jeans back then.
- Kyle was studying abroad last semester.
- My family was enjoying the wedding reception.
The difference between past tense and past progressive is that verbs in the past tense (such as "I walked the dog") expressed a completed action, while past progressive tense ("I was walking the dog") indicates that a continuous action happened in the past. Use past progressive tense to set the scene for a story or to show that a continuous action has been interrupted.
Future Progressive Tense: Will Be
The future progressive tense is the easiest one to conjugate because neither the helping verb nor the -ing verb changes. You always use "will be" to describe an ongoing action that will be occurring in the future, no matter who is performing the verb.
- I will be finishing up my homework around 6 o'clock tonight.
- People will be lining up for the show in a few hours.
- We will be graduating high school this time next year.
- Shawna will be enjoying her new house for years to come.
- It will be snowing by the time we arrive at the cabin.
Although they seem similar, the future progressive tense is different from the future simple tense. Actions in the future tense (such as "I will finish my homework") indicate an action without a beginning or an end. When you write in the future progressive tense ("I will be finishing my homework"), you're providing your reader with a sense of time.
Progressive Verb Tenses Printable
If you need a progressive verb list for quick reference, download the printable resource below. It lists 20 root verbs and how they appear in present progressive, past progressive and future progressive tenses.
Perfect Progressive Tenses
By now, you know that progressive verb tenses show that a verb is, was or will be happening. But how are they different from perfect progressive tenses? You conjugate them the same way as progressive verb tenses, but you use forms of "to have" along with "to be."
- present perfect progressive - I have been playing piano for five years. (I have already played piano for five years and am still playing.)
- past perfect progressive - I had been playing piano for five years. (I have already played piano for five years but am no longer playing.)
- future perfect progressive - I will have been playing piano for five years (I am playing piano now and will continue to play in the future.)
Using perfect progressive tenses is a way to make your writing even more precise. Once you've mastered progressive tenses, understanding the nuances of perfect progressive tenses can help you be a better writer.
Progressive Verb Tenses Are on the Move
Progressive tenses are all about action. When you hear -ing, you know that verbs are ongoing in the past, present or future. Master the rest of the English verb tenses and use several tips to keep your writing consistent. You can also avoid seven common verb mistakes before you make them (or before you make them again)!