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Thread: "I listen !"

  1. #1
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    Default "I listen !"

    Hello,

    A friend of mine reported to me that he'd seen a program on TV featuring an old English gentleman trying to give his wife driving lessons (this was supposed to be a real-life show). At one point in the program, the man flew off the handle and asked his wife :

    "Are you listening?"

    to which his wife replied edgily (and somewhat suprisingly), "I listen!"

    We tried to figure out the reason why the women might have used the present simple ("I listen"!) in answer to her husband's question, which made use of BE + -ING ("Are you listening ?").

    We asked the question to a native speaker, who went so far as to say that the dialogue could by no means be correct English, which I found surprising as the words were spoken by two native English speakers.

    Could I ask you what you think about it, and how you would account for the woman answering "I listen !" to "Are you listening ?"

    A great many thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: "I listen !"

    Present simple expresses a routine, a habit. "I listen!" is grammatical. Below, the speaker probably (a) omitted a few words [ ... ],

    Husband: Are you listening?
    Wife: [Yes.] I [always] listen [to what you say]!

    or (b) could have meant, "Yes. I can/have the ability to listen!"

    Hope that helps.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: "I listen !"

    A great many thanks for that, Casiopea. Perhaps I should add that I searched the Web for relevant instances of "Go on, I listen" and that I did find a few (sometimes in literary dialogues in which I suppose there is but little chance of encountering "incorrect" English).

    Would you say the woman in the dialogue I was originally referring to might have been implying something like "You are suggesting that I should be listening - but I refuse to admit that. Anyway, now. Go on ! I listen."

  4. #4
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    Default Re: "I listen !"

    You're most welocme, Stephan.

    ... I searched the Web for relevant instances of "Go on, I listen" and that I did find a few (sometimes in literary dialogues in which I suppose there is but little chance of encountering "incorrect" English).
    Well, never say, "never". To err is human. Though, given that you found other instances, "Go on, I listen" could be a dialect variation, one that I am not familiar with (Psst... I speak North American English).

    Would you say the woman in the dialogue I was originally referring to might have been implying something like "You are suggesting that I should be listening - but I refuse to admit that. Anyway, now. Go on ! I listen."
    Possibly. It fits, doesn't it? Again, it's neither my dialect nor my generation. The couple is old, right? Even in my own dialect, language usage differs across generations to a certain degree.

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