Many languages use the present simple to write about actions that are occurring in the present, but English is not one of them. In English, we use the present progressive to describe actions that are happening right now. We do not use the present simple for this purpose – it is for repeated actions, habits, and states.

The present progressive is not used alone. It is used with a time phrase or a verb in the present simple in context close to it, either before or after.  Because progressive tenses are used to describe actions, they can almost always be used with action verbs only. No state verbs are used in progressive tenses, except occasionally to make a point or adopt an informal tone (“I’m lovin’ it”).

The present simple is often used with adverbs of frequency, which tend to be placed after the subject and before the verb (“I usually write on Fridays”). The present progressive, on the other hand, is used with present time phrases (“I am writing right now,” “I am writing at the moment”). Both of these tenses are also used to talk about the future, in some cases: the simple present is used for events that happen in the future according to a timetable (“The train leaves at 9:30 tomorrow”). The present progressive is used for future plans that are almost 100% certain (“I am leaving tomorrow morning”).

  • Present simple: I write. (describes a habit or a job)
  • Present Progressive: I am writing right now. (describes a current action)

Question: What are you doing right now?

Incorrect responseCorrect response
I eat.  I am eating.