How to Use the Present Progressive to Complain in English

Updated: Jul 12


ESL Complaint

Who doesn’t complain now and then? It can be enjoyable, or at least helpful at times. Sometimes it just feels good to get your complaints out in the open. Or, as writer Jane Wagner jokingly wrote:

“I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.” - Jane Wagner, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

I think she's onto something! What if I told you that you can use a specific verb tense to add some power to your complaintand to sound more American?

Using the Progressive to Complain


We usually use the progressive tenses (to be verb + verb + ing) to talk about actions that are happening in the present moment (I am writing right now) or even future plans (I am having a party on Friday), or the past (He was talking on the phone when I walked in the room). However, you can also use the progressive tenses to describe something that bothers you.

English speakers do this a lot, and it looks like this:

My son is always playing on his cell phone.