This site says that the present continuous can be used for temporary habits. for example,

  1. He's eating a lot these days.
  2. She's swimming every morning
  3. You're smoking too much.
  4. Why is he hitting the dog?

But my question is, When the present continuous is used for temporary habits, is it necessary to be doing the action at the time of speaking? (unless Can we say above examples even if he/she is not doing them at the moment when we are talking?)

  • "is it necessary to be doing the action at the of speaking?" At the what of speaking? The time or the moment or something else? I did want to edit your question without knowing what you mean.
    – user6951
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


Yes, you can use the present continuous in this way even when the subject is not currently doing the action. #2 is an excellent example. If you say "She's swimming every morning" to someone in the afternoon, the listener will understand that "she" is not currently swimming.

I don't think #4 is a good example. It would need more context to show that the behavior is a habit.

Remember, the rest of the sentence matters too.The continuous tense refers to a state of being. If I say "She's swimming", it means she's currently in a state where she swims. If I say "She's swimming every morning", it means she's currently in a state where she swims every morning.

Here's an example that might be easier to understand. This shows a change of state.

She used to swim three days a week, but now she's swimming every morning.

In a shorter sentence, you can emphasize a change of state by adding "now" to the end of the sentence.

She's swimming every morning now.

This doesn't mean she's swimming when I speak. It means she used to not swim every morning, but now she does.

  • Thanks for answering! I agreed with what you've said. but one of my grammar book says " the present continuous can refer to repeated actions,if those are happening around the moment of speaking. for example ; 1.Why is he hitting the dog? 2.Jake is seeing a lot of felicity these days." so dosen't it mean that the action must be happening at the of speaking?
    – Kevin D
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 18:19
  • 1
    I am reading a book, even if I have put it down while I sleep and will continue reading it in the morning. So that idea of "around the moment of speaking" can be used for the most common use of the present continuous "Something we are doing now". It can also be used for this "temporary habit": I stopped smoking for a year, but I'm smoking again these days. I can say that even if I am not smoking at the moment of speaking. Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 18:49
  • 2
    "Around the moment of speaking" does not mean the same as "at the moment of speaking." Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 18:50
  • 1
    @KevinD "Around" in that quote should probably be taken to mean "on both sides of" (that is, before and after) the moment of speaking rather than "approximately at" the moment of speaking. Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 21:42
  • 1
    Colloquially, it is possible to use stative verbs with the continuous aspect. Example: "Are you hearing this?"
    – Adam Haun
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 14:45

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