Continuous and progressive aspects
The continuous and progressive aspects (abbreviated  and ) are grammatical aspect
Grammatical aspect
In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb is a grammatical category that defines the temporal flow in a given action, event, or state, from the point of view of the speaker...

s that express incomplete action in progress at a specific time: they are non-habitual, imperfective
Imperfective aspect
The imperfective is a grammatical aspect used to describe a situation viewed with internal structure, such as ongoing, habitual, repeated, and similar semantic roles, whether that situation occurs in the past, present, or future...

 aspects. It is a verb category with two principal meaning components: (limited) duration and (possible) incompletion. Most languages treat continuous and progressive aspects as alike and use the two terms interchangeably, but there are languages that distinguish them.

As with other grammatical categories, the precise semantics of the aspects vary from language to language, and from grammarian to grammarian. For example, some grammars of Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

 count the -iyor form as a present tense
Present tense
The present tense is a grammatical tense that locates a situation or event in present time. This linguistic definition refers to a concept that indicates a feature of the meaning of a verb...

; some as a progressive tense; and some as both a continuous (nonhabitual imperfective) and a progressive (continuous non-stative) aspect.

Continuous versus progressive

The progressive aspect expresses the dynamic quality of actions that are in progress while the continuous aspect expresses the state of the subject that is continuing the action. For instance, the English sentence "Tom is walking" can express the active movement of Tom's legs (progressive aspect), or Tom's current state, the fact that Tom is walking rather than doing something else at the moment (continuous aspect).

Continuous and progressive in various languages

Unless otherwise indicated, the following languages treat continuous and progressive aspects the same, in which case the term continuous is used to refer to both.


The continuous aspect is constructed by using a form of the copula, "to be", together with the present participle
In linguistics, a participle is a word that shares some characteristics of both verbs and adjectives. It can be used in compound verb tenses or voices , or as a modifier...

 (marked with the suffix -ing). It is generally used for actions that are actively on-going at the time in question, and does not focus on the larger time-scale. For example, the sentence "Andrew was playing tennis when Jane called him." indicates what Andrew was doing when Jane called him, but does not indicate for how long Andrew played, nor how often he plays; for that, the simple past would suffice: "Andrew played tennis three hours every day for several years."

The perfect continuous (have been doing), as a special case, sometimes implies that the action being described was interrupted at the time in question, and does not clarify whether the action resumed. For example, "Andrew had been playing tennis when Jane called him." suggests that Jane's calling him interrupted his tennis-playing (whereas in the former example, it was possible that he simply ignored her call), and leaves open the possibility that what she told him required such urgent action that he forfeited his match and left. But the perfect continuous need not imply interruptedness, as in "I have been running for 30 minutes, but I'll stop soon."

Salikoko Mufwene
Salikoko Mufwene
Salikoko Mufwene is a linguist born in Mbaya-Lareme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is the Frank J. McLoraine Distinguished Service Professor of linguistics at the University of Chicago. He has worked extensively on the development of creole languages, as well as on African American...

contrasts the effect of the progressive form on the meanings of action verbs versus those of lexically stative verbs:
  1. [I]t converts events expected to be punctual into longer-lasting, even if transient, states of affairs [e.g., "Nancy is writing a letter"];
  2. it [con]versely converts those states of affairs expected to last long (lexical statives) to shorter-lasting / transient states of affairs [e.g., "Tom is living with us"]; and
  3. it simply presents those verbs whose denotations are neutral with regard to duration as in process / in (transient) duration [e.g., "The wall is cracking"], though duration is most expected of statives.


One hypothesis regarding the origin of the development of the English progressive aspect was the Old English construction that used a form of beon/wesan (to be/to become) with a present participle (-ende). Although there is some debate among scholars, it is generally thought that such a construction in Old English was not analogous to progressive aspect signaled in present-day English (a more modern development), but rather carried the meaning of a simple stative verb, where the past participle functioned as an adjective, and was predominantly used for translating the corresponding construction in Latin texts (Brinton, 1988, p. 109).

One postulated source of the English current progressive aspect is the Celtic languages
Celtic languages
The Celtic languages are descended from Proto-Celtic, or "Common Celtic"; a branch of the greater Indo-European language family...

 that have been spoken in Britain throughout its history, which all use a (to be)+preposition+verbal noun construction to form it.


Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 is one family of languages that makes a distinction between the continuous and progressive aspects.


Cantonese has a very regular system for expressing aspects via verb suffixes. 緊 is typically used to express progressive aspect while 住 is used to express continuous aspect. Take the following example:
English Translation
Progressive I am putting on clothes.
Continuous I am wearing clothes.

In the example, the progressive aspect expresses the fact that the subject is actively putting on clothes rather than merely wearing them as in the continuous aspect. This example is useful for showing English speakers the difference between continuous and progressive because "wearing" in English never conveys the progressive aspect (instead "putting on" must be used).

In Cantonese, the progressive marker 緊 can express the continuous aspect as well, depending on the context (so the example above could also mean "I'm wearing clothes" in addition to "I'm putting on clothes"), but in general, the progressive aspect is assumed. In order to emphasize the progressive aspect rather than the continuous, 喺度 (literally meaning "at here") can be used in front of the verb:

喺度 can also be used without 緊 to indicate the progressive aspect.


Unlike Cantonese, Mandarin does not have a verb suffix for expressing the progressive aspect, but it can use the pre-verbal auxiliary zài 正在 (or simply just 在), which also translates to "at [here]", similar to how Cantonese uses 喺度 in front of the verb.

The continuous aspect does have a verb suffix, 著/着 zhe, which is cognate
In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. This learned term derives from the Latin cognatus . Cognates within the same language are called doublets. Strictly speaking, loanwords from another language are usually not meant by the term, e.g...

 with the Cantonese 住 in this context. Incidentally, 著/着 is also used for the Cantonese word for "wear", but is actually not related because it is one of those words that have multiple meanings in Chinese.
English Translation
Progressive I am putting on clothes.
Continuous I am wearing clothes.


French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 does not have a continuous aspect per se; events that English would describe using its continuous aspect, French would describe using a neutral aspect. That being said, French can express a continuous sense using the periphrastic construction être en train de ("to be in the middle of"); for example, English's "we were eating" might be expressed in French either as nous étions en train de manger, or as simply nous mangions.

An exception is in relating events that took place in the past: the imperfect has a continuous aspect in relation to the simple (historic) past; e.g. nous mangions quand il frappa à la porte ("we were eating when he knocked at the door"). However, the passé composé
Passé composé
Passé composé is the most commonly used past tense in the modern French language. It is used to express an action that has been completed at the time of speech, or at some time in the past...

 is more often used to denote past events with a neutral aspect in a non-narrative context.

Quebec French
Quebec French
Quebec French , or Québécois French, is the predominant variety of the French language in Canada, in its formal and informal registers. Quebec French is used in everyday communication, as well as in education, the media, and government....

 often expresses a continuous sense using the periphrastic construction être après (lit. "to be after"); for example, English's "we were eating" might be expressed in Quebec French either as nous étions après manger, or as simply nous mangions (imparfait).


Icelandic language
Icelandic is a North Germanic language, the main language of Iceland. Its closest relative is Faroese.Icelandic is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic or Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages prior to the...

 possesses a present continuous aspect much like that found in English, but is a feature unique to Icelandic in the Scandinavian languages. It is formed with the copula vera (to be) + (infinitive marker) + infinite verb. Its usage differs slightly from English, as it generally cannot be used in static contexts, for example standing or sitting, but rather to describe specific activities. The following examples illustrate this phenomenon.
Ég er að borða eplið.
I'm eating the apple.

In contrast with:
Ég stend á borðinu.
I'm standing on the table.

In the second example, the simple present
Simple present
The simple present or present simple is one of the present tenses used in modern English, the others being the present continuous and the emphatic present. It is called "present" because it is often used in referring to the present time, and it is called "simple" because it consists of only a...

 tense is used as it describes a state, standing on the table. The construction ég er að standa á borðinu is incorrect in Icelandic, although technically possible to construct. In addition this method of constructing the continuous present there exists a second method akin to the one which exists in the other Scandinavian languages, where a present participle ending in -andi is used along with the copula vera. This is a way of using the present participle that be analysed as more adjectival
In grammar, an adjective is a 'describing' word; the main syntactic role of which is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified....

 or adverb
An adverb is a part of speech that modifies verbs or any part of speech other than a noun . Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives , clauses, sentences, and other adverbs....

ial than verb
A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...

al, as it cannot be used with transitive verbs. With certain verbs it also has a frequentative
In grammar, a frequentative form of a word is one which indicates repeated action. The frequentative form can be considered a separate, but not completely independent word, called a frequentative...

 implication, as in the following example:
Ég fer gangandi í skóla.
I walk to school (regularly).

Technically the use of the present participle is often not an example of continuous aspect in Icelandic.


Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 forms a continuous aspect in much the same way as in English, using a present tense conjugation of the verb stare ("to stay") followed by the gerund
In linguistics* As applied to English, it refers to the usage of a verb as a noun ....

 of the main verb. Depending upon the ending of the main verb in the infinitive, the present participle will replace the infinitive suffix with -ando (if the verb's infinitive ends in -are) or -endo (if the infinitive ends in -ere or -ire). For example: (Io) sto leggendo ("I am reading").

Present tense

The present tense and the present continuous have distinct meanings in Italian, the latter emphasising that the action is occurring at time the speaker is speaking. For example, Sto pattinando and Io pattino ("I am skating" [now] and "I skate") carry different connotations in standard Italian. While in English, one may say, "We are reading" and "We have been reading" to two different effects, there is no expression specifically for the latter in Italian.

The present continuous is formed by using the present tense of the verb stare + the gerundio. The gerundio is an Italian verb form - participle - and conveys the main meaning of the tense. For the regular verbs, the gerundio is formed from the infinitive of the verb by taking the stem
Word stem
In linguistics, a stem is a part of a word. The term is used with slightly different meanings.In one usage, a stem is a form to which affixes can be attached. Thus, in this usage, the English word friendships contains the stem friend, to which the derivational suffix -ship is attached to form a new...

 and replacing the verb suffix with the appropriate gerundio suffix: -are verbs take -ando and the -ere and -ire verbs both take -endo. The table shows the conjugations of stare in the present tense with a gerundio to exemplify the present continuous:
person avere essere parlare credere finire dire opporre
io sto avendo sto essendo sto parlando sto credendo sto finendo sto dicendo sto opponendo
tu stai avendo stai essendo stai parlando stai credendo stai finendo stai dicendo stai opponendo
lui/lei sta avendo sta essendo sta parlando sta credendo sta finendo sta dicendo sta opponendo
noi stiamo avendo stiamo essendo stiamo parlando stiamo credendo stiamo finendo stiamo dicendo stiamo opponendo
voi state avendo state essendo state parlando state credendo state finendo state dicendo state opponendo
loro stanno avendo stanno essendo stanno parlando stanno credendo stanno finendo stanno dicendo stanno opponendo

The present continuous tense is one of the least irregular tenses in the Italian language, with a very predictable conjugation pattern even for verbs that are typically irregular, such as essere ("to be") and avere ("to have"). Note that for some of these irregular verbs, the gerund takes its stem from the 1st person singular of the indicative present tense:
infinitive 1st pers. sing. present gerund
dire dico dicendo
bere bevo bevendo
fare faccio facendo

Past tense

The past progressive is considered interchangeable with the imperfect. The gerundio remains unchanged, but the conjugation of stare changes to its normal conjugation for the imperfect. For example, Sto andando ("I am going") would change to Stavo andando ("I was going") in the past progressive. In conventional Italian speaking, Stavo andando, the past progressive, is mostly interchangeable with Andavo ("I used to go" or "I went"), the imperfect.

Conjugations of the Past Progressive:
person avere essere parlare credere finire dire opporre
io stavo avendo stavo essendo stavo parlando stavo credendo stavo finendo stavo dicendo stavo opponendo
tu stavi avendo stavi essendo stavi parlando stavi credendo stavi finendo stavi dicendo stavi opponendo
lui/lei stava avendo stava essendo stava parlando stava credendo stava finendo stava dicendo stava opponendo
noi stavamo avendo stavamo essendo stavamo parlando stavamo credendo stavamo finendo stavamo dicendo stavamo opponendo
voi stavate avendo stavate essendo stavate parlando stavate credendo stavate finendo stavate dicendo stavate opponendo
loro stavano avendo stavano essendo stavano parlando stavano credendo stavano finendo stavano dicendo stavano opponendo

Like the present progressive, the Italian past progressive is extremely regular. There are no irregular past participles, and stare follows the regular conjugation pattern for -are verbs in the imperfect.


There is no continuous aspect in standard German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

. The aspect can be expressed with gerade as in er liest gerade meaning he is reading. Certain regional dialects, such as those of the Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

, the Ruhr Area
Ruhr Area
The Ruhr, by German-speaking geographers and historians more accurately called Ruhr district or Ruhr region , is an urban area in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. With 4435 km² and a population of some 5.2 million , it is the largest urban agglomeration in Germany...

, and Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

, form a continuous aspect using the verb sein (to be), the inflected preposition am or beim (at the or on the), and an infinitive. For example, ich bin am Lesen, ich bin beim Lesen (literally I am on/at the reading) means I am reading. Known as the rheinische Verlaufsform (roughly Rhinish progressive form), it has become increasingly common in the casual speech of many speakers of standard German, although it is still frowned upon in formal and literary contexts. In Southern Austro-Bavarian
Southern Austro-Bavarian
Southern Bavarian, or Southern Austro-Bavarian, is a cluster of Germanic dialects of the Bavarian group.They are primarily spoken in the Austrian federal-states of Tyrol, Carinthia and Styria, in the southern parts of Salzburg and Burgenland as well as in the Italian province of South Tyrol...

, the aspect can be expressed using tun (to do) as an auxiliary with the infinitive of the verb as in er tut lesen for he is reading.


There are various methods of forming a continuous in Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

  • One is the same as in English: zijn (to be) with the present participle, e.g. Het schip is zinkende (The ship is sinking). This is usually used to give some dramatic overtone and is not normally used.
  • The second method of forming is as in the German dialects above: zijn, the preposition aan, and the gerund (verb used as a noun), e.g. Ik ben aan het lezen (literally I am at the reading), meaning I am reading.
  • The third method is by using a verb expressing position, like zitten (to sit), staan (to stand), liggen (to lie). Examples: Ik zit te lezen (lit. I sit to read), meaning I am reading, Zij ligt te slapen (lit. She lies to sleep), meaning She is sleeping.
  • A fourth method, also available in English, is using the adverb bezig (busy), e.g. Ik ben bezig met lezen (lit. I am busy with reading), meaning I am busy reading.


In the Amazigh language, past continuous is formed by using the fixed participle ttugha (original meaning: I forgot); ttugha is added before the verb that is in the present tense. So we have:

Ntta itari : he writes / he is writing

Ntta ttugha itari : he was writing

Present continuous is usually the same as the present tense. But in the Riff variety of Berber, the participle aqqa is added before the verb to form present continuous.


Formed exactly as in Rhinish German, Jèrriais
Jèrriais is the form of the Norman language spoken in Jersey, in the Channel Islands, off the coast of France. It has been in decline over the past century as English has increasingly become the language of education, commerce and administration...

 constructs the continuous with verb êt' (be) + à (preposition) + infinitive. For example, j'têmes à mangi translates as we were eating.


Russian verbs of motion usually have progressive and non-progressive lexical pairs ("я иду" - "я хожу" (I'm going - I go), "я лечу" - "я летаю" (I'm flying - I fly)). However, non-motion verbs in Russian do not have the progressive aspect. Instead, adverbs like "сейчас" ("(right) now") can be used to indicate that the action is progressive/continuous and not habitual.


In Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

, the continuous is constructed much as in English, using a conjugated form of estar (to be) plus the gerundio (gerund
In linguistics* As applied to English, it refers to the usage of a verb as a noun ....

In linguistics, a gerundive is a particular verb form. The term is applied very differently to different languages; depending on the language, gerundives may be verbal adjectives, verbal adverbs, or finite verbs...

/adverbial participle
Adverbial participle
Adverbial participles are built out of a verb , and in most cases they play the role of the sentence element called adverbial in the grammar of some languages...

) of the main verb; for example, estar haciendo means to be doing (haciendo being the gerundio of hacer, to do). Unlike English, the continuous cannot be used to describe an action that has not yet begun at the time of interest; however, in the present tense, the simple present suffices for this, and in any tense, a similar effect can be achieved with the auxiliary ir a ("to go to") in its non-continuous aspect.

Like English, Spanish also has a few related constructions with similar structures and related meanings; for example, seguir haciendo means to keep doing (seguir being to continue).

Hindi and Urdu

Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

 and Urdu
Urdu is a register of the Hindustani language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia. It belongs to the Indo-European family. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. It is also widely spoken in some regions of India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and an...

 have a definite progressive/continuous aspect, marked by auxiliaries, for past, present, and future. It is distinguished from the simple aspect, and is widely used in everyday speech. Like English, it is also used to denote an immediate future action. For a complete conjugation of the continuous tenses, see Hindi grammar.


Quechua languages
Quechua is a Native South American language family and dialect cluster spoken primarily in the Andes of South America, derived from an original common ancestor language, Proto-Quechua. It is the most widely spoken language family of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, with a total of probably...

 uses a specific suffix
In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns or adjectives, and verb endings, which form the conjugation of verbs...

: -chka or sha; which is directly attached before the conjugation suffixes. Although the continuous aspect in Quechua is similar to that of English, it is more used than the simple tense
Grammatical tense
A tense is a grammatical category that locates a situation in time, to indicate when the situation takes place.Bernard Comrie, Aspect, 1976:6:...

s and is commonly translated into them (simple present and past), because of the idea that actions are not instantaneous, but they have a specific duration (mikuni [I eat] and mikuchkani [I am eating] are both correct, but it is preferred to use mikuchkani because we do no eat in a second).


Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 uses the same grammar form to form the progressive and the continuous aspect, specifically by using the -te iru form of a verb. Depending on the transitivity
Transitivity (grammatical category)
In linguistics, transitivity is a property of verbs that relates to whether a verb can take direct objects and how many such objects a verb can take...

of the verb, they are interpreted as either progressive or continuous. For example:
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