Some websites say

Sometimes, speakers use the Present Continuous to indicate 
that something will or will not happen in the near future.


I am meeting some friends after work.
I am not going to the party tonight.
Is he visiting his parents next weekend?
Isn't he coming with us tonight?

Others say:

The present continuous is used to talk about arrangements for 
events at a time later than now. 
There is a suggestion that more than one person is 
aware of the event, and that some preparation has already happened. e.g.

I'm meeting Jim at the airport = Jim and I have discussed this.
I am leaving tomorrow. = I've already bought my train ticket.
We're having a staff meeting next Monday = all members of staff have been told about it.

I think the second one makes more senses.

But my question is that:

Is present continuous tense only used for future arrangements? & If there is no future arrangement then we can not use present continuous tense right?

See this example,

"I am seeing my mom this afternoon" could mean "My mom & I have agreed to meet each other before"

"I am going to see my mom this afternoon" could mean "I've got a plan to see my mom, but my mom may not know it she & I have not arranged a meeting yet"

"I will see my mom this afternoon": "Will" in this case expresses a Voluntary Action. I'm willing to see my mom.

"I am going to the beach this afternoon" could mean I agreed with myself that I am going to go to the beach this afternoon & I prepared stuffs (swimming suits, sun scream, etc) for that.

  • 1
    Well ... you probably wouldn't say "the sun is rising tomorrow at 7:30 am". You'd say "the sun rises ..." or "the sun will rise...". But you could say "I've decided on my plans ... I'm going to the beach tomorrow," without having made any prior arrangement at all (except for deciding this thirty seconds ago). I hope this helps. – Peter Shor Apr 21 '16 at 16:04

The present continuous is certainly not restricted to referring to the future. It also indicates an ongoing action that is occurring now:

I am laughing.

The rain is falling.

Note that the simple present can also be used to refer to future events:

We leave for London in June.

Also note that the will in "I will see my mom this afternoon" has nothing to do with your "willingness" to see your mother. Will in this case is a helping verb:

Helping verbs or auxiliary verbs such as will, shall, may, might, can, could, must, ought to, should, would, used to, and need are used in conjunction with main verbs to express shades of time and mood. The combination of helping verbs with main verbs creates what are called verb phrases or verb strings.

And lastly note that there is no inherent difference in meaning between

I am seeing my mom this afternoon.


I am going to see my mom this afternoon.


I will see my mom this afternoon.

and, for that matter,

I see my mom this afternoon.

This last one could easily be used in response to the question, "When will [or do] you see your mom?" All of these state your intentions. It may be the case that your mother is unaware of your plans, or it may be that the meeting has been agreed to by both of you. Either meaning is possible, but none of these statement implies just one or the other. They are all equivalent.

  • We can say "Don't leave that toddler alone in the yard. He's eventually going to fall into the pool and drown." But we would never say "Don't leave that toddler alone in the yard. He's eventually falling into the pool and drowning." So the present continuous, used for the future, does imply some planning. – Peter Shor Apr 21 '16 at 16:18
  • You are absolutely correct. My intent is to address the specific examples given and to lay out a general principal. However, this principle does not work in every instance. As you also have pointed out, we don't say "The sun is rising tomorrow." That doesn't mean we can't say the progressive is used to refer to the future--it is, but idiomatic conventions must be accounted for. – user66965 Apr 21 '16 at 16:22
  • As for the planning, I haven't said no planning is involved. I have said that the speaker's mother may not be privy to this planning. I have said clearly that the specific sentences cited indicate the speaker's intentions. That means planning, yes. – user66965 Apr 21 '16 at 16:26

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