Songs with Continuous Tenses: Learn Present Continuous and More with Popular Music

You’ve probably heard of the present continuous or progressive tense in English.

But did you know there are actually six main continuous tenses

It may sound like a lot, but learning these tenses doesn’t have to mean hours and hours of repetitive study.

In fact, you can practice the continuous tenses with an activity you might already do—listening to popular English songs!

In this post, you’ll get 11 fantastic pop songs you can use to practice the present continuous, past continuous and more. 


The 6 Main Continuous Tenses in English

  • Present continuous tense: We use this tense to talk about things that are currently happening or are in regard to future plans. It’s formed by using the present tense of the verb be and then adding -ing to the end of the main verb. The subject and the verb be can often be contracted (I’m, you’re, he’s, etc.) and the negative form uses not after the verb be

The dogs are sleeping.

I am going to Paris next month. 

We’re not staying in the same hotel. 

She’s not feeling well today.

  • Present perfect continuous tense: This tense is used to talk about incomplete actions that have started in the past and continue in the present. It’s formed by using have been or has been and then adding -ing to the end of the main verb. The subject and have/has can be contracted (I’ve been, you’ve been, he’s been, etc.). In the negative form, we use haven’t been or hasn’t been

I have been trying to study for my math test for the past three hours.

She has been practicing for the play for months.

I haven’t been feeling well for over two weeks.

He hasn’t been working very much lately.

  • Past continuous tense: This tense is used to talk about ongoing actions that happened in the past. It’s formed by using was or were and then adding -ing to the end of the main verb. The negative form can be written or spoken using the contractions wasn’t or weren’t.

I was cleaning my house last night.

We were driving through the mountains all night.

It wasn’t raining when I left work.

They weren’t planning on coming to the party.

  • Past perfect continuous tense: This tense is used to talk about things that started in the past, continued in the past and ended in the past. It’s formed using had been (or hadn’t been in the negative form) and then adding -ing to the end of the main verb. We can contract the subject and had in the positive form (I’d been, he’d been, we’d been, etc.).

The thief had been breaking the locks when he was caught.

He had been writing his first book when I met him.

It hadn’t been raining long when they left the restaurant.

  • Future continuous tense: This tense is used to talk about something that’s expected to happen in the future and will continue for some time. It’s formed using will be (or will not/won’t be in the negative form) and then adding -ing to the end of the main verb. The subject and the verb will can be contracted in the positive form (I’ll be, you’ll be, he’ll be, etc.).

I will be completing my school project this Sunday.

She will be coming to the party tomorrow.

We won’t be opening the store tomorrow.

  • Future perfect continuous tense: This continuous tense is used to talk about actions that will continue for some time in the future. It’s formed by using will have been (or will not/won’t have been in the negative form) and then adding -ing to the end of the main verb. The subject and the verb will can be contracted in the positive form (I’ll have been, he’ll have been, etc.).

I will have been living in this apartment for six years next month.

He will have been traveling for an entire year in March.

She won’t have been working here a year before she goes on maternity leave.

Popular Pop Songs with Continuous Tenses 

Ready to learn those English continuous tenses as they’re actually used? Below, we’ll look at 11 pop songs that use the tenses in a way that will help you remember while enjoying some great music.

You can find more video examples of tenses and other grammar aspects in action on the FluentU program.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

  FluentU Ad

“Rolling in the Deep” by Adele


This is a very famous song by Adele. It’s about a woman who has been betrayed by her lover. In this song, she’s expressing her pain and anger and goes on to tell her ex-lover that they could have had a good relationship.

Continuous tenses in the lyrics

  • “It’s bringing me out the dark” (present continuous)

Bringing: The action of transporting someone or something to a particular place. “Bringing me out of the dark” means coming back into the light, or to a better emotional state. 

  • “Rolling in the deep” (present continuous)

Rolling: To move by turning over and over again. In this song, “rolling in the deep” refers to being deeply immersed in intense emotions, particularly heartbreak.

Everyday examples

The fragrant (good-smelling) flowers have been bringing butterflies to the garden. (present perfect continuous)

The ball is rolling down the hill. (present continuous)

“Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus


A wrecking ball is a big, metal ball used to destroy buildings. In this song, it’s used as a metaphor. The song is about a girl who’s in pain after her relationship ended. The wrecking ball is a symbol for the lover who figuratively (not literally) destroyed her life.

Continuous tenses in the lyrics

  • “Running for my life” (present continuous)

Running: To move very fast, or to manage or operate something. It can also be meant figuratively, such as running away from or escaping something like a tough situation or challenging emotions. 

  • “You’re not coming down” (present continuous)

Coming: The act of moving towards or arriving at a particular location or state. “Coming down” means returning from a higher position or state to a lower one, or reducing the intensity, excitement or effects of something.

Everyday examples

I have been running the store by myself for the past year. (present perfect continuous)

He will be running in the marathon later this week. (future continuous)

I will be coming to your house later. (future continuous)

“We Will Rock You” by Queen


In its simplest explanation, this famous song is about staying motivated, encouraged and positive even when everything seems to be going against you.

Continuous tenses in the lyrics

  • “Playing in the street” (present continuous)

Playing: To do something for enjoyment and entertainment.

  • “Kicking your can (butt) all over the place” (present continuous)

Kicking: To hit something with force using your foot. “Kick your butt” means to beat someone up (use violence against them) or to beat them at something, like a game or sport.

  • “Shouting in the street” (present continuous)

Shouting: To say something at a loud volume, usually with anger or to get someone’s attention.

  • “Waving your banner all over the place” (present continuous)

Waving: To move your hand or an object from side to side to greet someone or get someone’s attention.

  • “Pleading with your eyes” (present continuous)

Pleading: To beg (ask with desperation) someone to do something or allow you to do something.

Everyday examples

Ross is playing with the ball. (present continuous)

They had been playing in the backyard all afternoon. (past perfect continuous)

The fans were shouting at the basketball game. (past continuous)

He was waving at me in the market but I could not see him because I did not have my glasses on. (past continuous)

The children have been pleading with their parents all weekend to take them to the waterpark. (present perfect continuous)

“Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan


A rolling stone is a metaphor in this song. It symbolizes the fall of pride and arrogance in the main character of the song who was once rich and part of high society.

Continuous tenses in the lyrics

  • “Everybody that was hanging out” (past continuous)

Hanging: To be suspended (stuck) in the air. The phrase “hanging out” means to casually spend time with your friends or other people.

  • “He’s not selling any alibis” (present continuous)
    *An alibi is a claim or piece of evidence that proves a person was elsewhere and therefore not involved in a crime or wrongdoing.

Selling: To give away something for money or at a price.

Everyday examples

He was hanging out with his best friend. (past continuous)

I have been selling my basketball cards online. (present perfect continuous)

“Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper


This song is a duet, which means that it’s sung by two singers. It’s about dissatisfaction and yearning (wishing) for a life that’s full of meaning and that’s not shallow.

Continuous tenses in the lyrics

  • “Is there something else you’re searching for?” (present continuous)

Searching: To look for something either physical, like your keys, or figurative, like a purpose in life. 

  • “I’m falling” (present continuous)

Falling: To descend quickly from a high to a low place without control. It can be used in the phrase “falling in love” or “falling for someone” to mean developing feelings for someone.

Everyday examples

She will have been searching for her lost dog for 12 hours by dinnertime. (future perfect continuous)

He is falling for that girl in his class. (present continuous)

“Hotel California” by The Eagles


This song might be confusing as an English learner because the meaning of its lyrics is not very clear. Many people believe that this song is about the culture of greed, pleasure and excess in America and the music industry.

Continuous tenses in the lyrics

  • “Last thing I remember, I was running for the door.” (past continuous)

Running: To move quickly by foot. 

  • “And still those voices are calling from far away.” (present continuous)

Calling: To vocally try and get someone’s attention or to say something loudly to someone. It also means to contact someone by phone in order to speak with them.

Everyday examples

She has been running every day. (present perfect continuous)

He was calling for his cat that disappeared sometime last night. (past continuous)

“Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams


In this song, Bryan Adams talks about the first time he formed a band with his friends in the year 1969. In the song, he explains how even though the band didn’t last for a very time, he still remembers that time quite fondly (in a positive way).

Continuous tenses in the lyrics

  • “Man we were killin’ time” (past continuous)

Killin’: Informal contraction of the word “killing.” It can mean to take someone’s life, or in casual English, it can be used in the phrase “killing time” to refer to wasting time or waiting for time to pass.

  • “And now the times are changin'” (present continuous)

Changin’: Informal contraction of the word “changing.” It means to transform or to become different.

  • “Standin’ on your mama’s porch” (present continuous)

Standin’: Informal contraction of the word “standing.” It’s the opposite of sitting, when you’re on your feet and your body is upright.

Everyday examples

The boys were killing time by playing games on their phones. (past continuous)

Winter is changing into spring very quickly. (present continuous)

They have been standing on the sidewalk waiting for the bus for hours. (present perfect continuous)

“Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran


This is a simple song about someone’s attraction to a stranger they met in a bar and the romantic relationship that developed after a few dates.

Continuous tenses in the lyrics

  • “Drinking fast and then we talk slow” (present continuous)

Drinking: To consume liquid. In social situations, it often refers to drinking alcohol specifically.

  • “And now I’m singing” (present continuous)

Singing: To perform songs vocally.

  • “My heart is falling.” (present continuous)

Falling: To go down fast, end up behind, or in this context, to break.

Everyday examples

He has been drinking a lot on the weekends lately. (present perfect continuous)

She is singing in the school’s musical next month. (present continuous)

He is falling behind in the race. (present continuous)

“Love Yourself” by Justin Beiber


This song is a break-up song where the singer talks about how he doesn’t have feelings for his ex-girlfriend anymore.

Continuous tenses in the lyrics

  • “You think I’m crying” (present continuous)

Crying: To shed tears as a result of strong emotions, such as sadness, grief, pain or joy.

  • “And baby I be movin’ on” (present continuous)

Movin’: Informal contraction of the word “moving,” which means to change place or position or to make someone very emotional. The phrase “moving on” means to recover from a bad experience and is usually used in the context of relationships.

  • “And if you think that I’m still holdin’ on to somethin'” (present continuous)

Holdin’: Informal contraction of the word “holding,” which means gripping or supporting something with one’s hands. In this line, “holding on” means holding onto your emotions and not letting them go or moving on. 

Everyday examples

He was crying out loud when he saw that his house was burning. (past continuous)

Nancy will be moving to another city next summer. (future continuous)

She had been holding her friend’s purse all night. (past perfect continuous)

“Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish


This song is about people trying to appear and act a certain way such as tough, strong, mean or masculine.

Continuous tenses in the lyrics

  • “Creeping around like no one knows” (present continuous)

Creeping: To move slowly and quietly, often with the intention of not being noticed.

  • “I do what I want when I’m wanting to” (present continuous)

Wanting: To desire something.

  • “But maybe it’s ’cause I’m wearing your cologne” (present continuous)

Wearing: To have clothes, accessories or a fragrance on your body.

Everyday examples

The cat was creeping towards the mouse. (past continuous)

I have been wanting a piece of chocolate all day. (present perfect continuous)

She is wearing her favorite dress today. (present continuous)

“Jealous Guy” by John Lennon


This is a song about a boyfriend who is jealous of other people but doesn’t want to feel this way. If you like this song, check out the recent version by The Weeknd.

Continuous tenses in the lyrics

  • “I was dreaming of the past” (past continuous)

Dreaming: Usually refers to the experience of images, emotions and sensations while sleeping. It can also mean to think about doing something in the future or to reflect upon the past.

  • “And my heart was beating fast” (past continuous)

Beating: To throb or pound.

  • “I was feeling insecure” (past continuous)

Feeling: To experience some emotion.

  • “I was shivering inside” (past continuous)

Shivering: To shake uncontrollably because of cold, fear or pain.

  • “I was swallowing my pain” (past continuous)

Swallowing: To push something down your throat. Here swallowing is used metaphorically and means that he was hiding his pain rather than expressing it.

Everyday examples

He has been dreaming about going to the Great Wall of China for years. (past perfect continuous)

Her heart was beating so fast when the boy she likes said hello to her. (past continuous)

I have been feeling very sad since I found out they will be moving away. (past perfect continuous/future continuous)

He was shivering from fear as his father asked for his report card. (past continuous)

She had been swallowing her anxiety for the entire performance. (past perfect continuous)


These aren’t just some of the most popular songs ever released. They’re also a great way to practice the six continuous tenses that are most commonly used in English. 

So hit play and sing along with the lyrics for some entertaining study time! 

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:


If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.


FluentU lets you learn engaging content with world famous celebrities.

For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:


FluentU lets you tap to look up any word.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.


FluentU helps you learn fast with useful questions and multiple examples. Learn more.

The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe