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VOCABULARY for Today's Podcast

subordinate clause - In a complex sentence, the clause that cannot exist alone, without the main clause.

verb tense - The form of the verb, such as simple past tense, simple present tense, present continuous tense, present perfect tense, present perfect continuous tense, and so on

time reference - In English, the time reference indicates the past, the present, and/or the future.   For example, the "present continuous tense" may actually refer to a future time.

simple sentence - a sentence with one main clause

complex sentence - a sentence with - 1) a main clause and 2) a dependent clause.


I'm Going

How to Use Present Continuous Tense

to Indicate Future Time

Hello!  This is the ESL HELP! Desk, your first stop for fun help with English grammar and communication.  At the ESL Help Desk, all of our examples and activities are based on authentic language, either written or spoken by others learners of English and native speakers. 

The ESL HELP! Desk would like to remind you to share your questions and comments about English with us.

This week we are going to take a trip into the world of grammar. We are going to discuss an area of confusion for many: The use of the present continuous (also known as present progressive) tense to indicate future time.

You are going to hear a sentence. We would like you to tell us what its time reference is - past, present, or future, and to write your answer in the box below:

I am traveling to New York.

Join us now for our lesson.

We often use the present continuous tense to indicate a future time reference.


We can use the present continuous tense in a simple sentence when the future time reference is made clear by the context , which is often established by the use of a time word.

tomorrow, tomorrow night, next week, next year, later, later on, etc.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

         What are you doing next week ?

        I'm traveling to New York.

          How are you getting there?

       I'm taking the train and my husband is flying . We're
our friends there.  Then we're both taking
the train
        back together.  

          Why is he flying ?

    He's coming from Washington DC and we'll be meeting in
      the City. Then we're both flying home together.

                  Would you like to go get some coffee nearby? I'm feeling
                   hungry.  My stomach is growling.

        Right now?  Hmmm, yes.  Sounds good!


As you can see in the dialogue above, the time reference reverted to the present by the change in topic and the use of the word "now."


We use the present continuous tense in a complex sentence when the subordinate clause begins with when and the whole sentence refers to the future.

  • When my daughter grows up , I’m going to bring her to Vienna and  show her the city where she was born.

  • When my daughter grows up , I’m bringing her to Vienna and showing her the city where she was born.

Now what's the answer to the question we asked you in the beginning?  ("I am traveling to New York.")

The answer is - I don't know - because  I would need to hear the conversation and context in which this sentence was spoken.  It could be either present or future time reference, depending on the context.

We are now going to conclude our podcast for this week.  If you have any questions or comments, be sure to send us a message by leaving a comment on our blog.

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