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ESL Lesson: Progressive Forms

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In this story you will see many examples of Progressive Verb Forms (also known as Continuous Forms). Here is the structure of the Progressive Forms:

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subject + auxiliary verb (be) + main verb (gerund)

Sometimes a modal verb can be used before the auxiliary verb:

subject + modal verb (could/would/should) + auxiliary verb (be) + main verb (gerund)

There are other structures such as the Present Perfect Continuous:

subject + auxiliary verb (have) + past participle (been) + main verb (gerund)

We use the progressive from when:

  • we want to describe an action that is happing right now
  • we want to describe an action that will be happening in the future
  • we want to describe an activity or process that started in the past and is still going on

Here are some examples:

  • We are reading an interesting story right now.
  • My wife is flying to Madrid tomorrow.
  • My wife would be flying to Madrid tomorrow if she had a holiday.
  • Our partners have been working with us for 10 years now.

Now enjoy the following story and find the progressive forms in italics.

"Going Going Gone!"

Andrew and Daisy Marvell were going to spend another holiday in Majorca. Everyone knew that — the postman knew it, the dustman knew it and their next door neighbours also knew they would be going there. The simple reason was that they had been going there for their summer holiday for the last twenty-five years.

Most people in Britain are subjected to an endless bombardment of advertisements on television just after Christmas inviting them to book for their summer holiday. The adverts are constantly telling viewers that if they book early, they will save enormous amounts of money but at the same time there is a little voice at the back of peoples' minds that is suggesting to them that there will also be bargains if they wait until the last minute. Habit is a significant factor in all this. You did this last year while you were taking down the Christmas decorations and therefore without realizing it, you will be doing exactly the same this year. You sit back in your favourite armchair and say: «In six months' time I shall be sitting on a sunny beach somewhere and I shall be reading my favourite book.»

The Marvells did not believe in leaving things to chance. They believed in planning. On a winter evening around mid-January in the Marvell household the following would be a typical conversation: "Are you thinking, what I'm thinking Daisy?" — "I'll tell you what I'm thinking: I'm dreaming of my summer holiday at the moment in a lovely warm place, And." She was being very romantic when she called him "And". "And, And (this was Daisy's sense of humour) where will you be taking your holiday this summer?" — "I was thinking perhaps we might try Majorca, it's said to be very pretty."

At this stage of the conversation there would be the sound of screams of laughter and the following day Andrew usually booked the holiday. The next-door neighbours, the long-suffering Nortons, heard the laughter too, turned to each other and said: "They're obviously making arrangements to go to Majorca again."

When Andrew finished work that Monday and was walking down the high street to the station to get his train home, he decided to call in at the travel agents to make his booking. When he reached the door, it didn't seem to open in the usual manner. In fact to his surprise it opened outwards instead of inwards. He ought to know, he thought, he'd been pushing and not pulling it several times a year over the last twenty-five and he usually went to young Jack (now old Jack) who'd been working there over the same period of time. The layout was different, too. Something strange was happening and poor Andrew couldn't make it out. There was the smell of damp and hot hair. "Can I help you, sir?" asked a young woman in a white overall. — "I've been coming here for the last twenty ..." Andrew's jaw dropped. For a moment he thought he was standing in the wrong shop, dashed outside and then came back in again. Maybe he was dreaming but then it dawned on him, the travel agents had gone and been replaced by a hairdressers. The woman explained: "We opened last week and are opening another new premises by the park next month. The travel agents have been experiencing a difficult time this year. They weren't getting their regular customers." Andrew just couldn't handle it. If Daisy were here, she would be feeling the same. He tried to picture how he would be explaining it to her. What would she be doing right now at home? She would probably be preparing the supper and expecting to see the receipt for the booking as he came through the door. What could he do? He was in a hairdressing salon and it was a uni-sex one as well! He didn't know what to do, where to look.

When Andrew eventually reached home about two hours later, Daisy was speaking on the phone. She had been going frantic trying to find out what had happened to Andrew. As she was watching him come through the door, she couldn't believe it was him. He looked about 20 years younger. Apparently he had been persuaded to stay on at the salon and have his hair done. He had seriously been considering having something done for some time and the young woman in the white overall had convinced him that he should experience all the facilities on offer. It wasn't long after that when Daisy gave the salon a try, too. Within three months Andrew and Daisy had become very important customers. It wasn't cheap of course but both their heads were immaculate and they were enjoying the appreciative comments from friends and colleagues including of course the postman, the dustman and the next door neighbours. Normally at this time of year they would have been saving hard and putting money aside for the holiday in Majorca but that topic was not being discussed at the moment. As the weeks went by they both became very friendly with the young woman in white called Angela and on one of their regular visits she told them:

"I'm running a raffle to mark our first 100 days at the salon that's how long we'll have been doing business by the end of this week and I was wondering whether you would like to buy some tickets." Anxious to keep in favour they paid up, bought six tickets and thought no more about it. About a month later when they arrived at the salon, Angela was waiting for them at the door excitedly waving an envelope. "They've just been doing the draw and you've won first prize." As Daisy was casually opening the envelope she half expected to have won a set of hairbrushes or a bottle of champagne. As she read the note, a strange smile was beginning to cross her face. "We're going on holiday And!" — "Oh, yes that's nice dear and where are we going?" — "Somewhere called Majorca, dear." — "Ah well, said And that'll keep the postman, the dustman and the neighbours happy."

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Next:ESL Lesson: Passive Voice

Author: Alan Townend




English Grammar through Stories (PDF)
English Grammar through Stories could be your saviour — it shows you a completely new way of learning. Forget about old-fashioned text books with difficult explanations and boring sample sentences. You can improve your grammar very fast if you know how. The answer is a few clicks away: Read these unique short stories by Alan Townend and absorb the patterns of English grammar automatically. You can only learn if you enjoy what you are doing. You will love the funny characters in English Grammar through Stories because they show the strengths and weaknesses of human nature. On top of all that, each story concentrates on one particular grammar item so all you have to do is read the book and have fun. You will be amazed at how easily you can improve your grammar.

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