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    #1

    Present Simple is not that simple to me

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I have some difficulty in understanding the following extract, esp., the last sentence. Could you help me out?

    In a grammar book, the author said that (in respect of the use of present continuous),

    'In the sentence "Usually, I am driving to work", the adverb "usually" indicates habitual action and so we must use the present simple. However, if we complete the sentence thus: Usually, I am driving to work at that time, there is no problem. The expression at that time creates a current context for the speaker or writer to point to.'

    Thank you.

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Present Simple is not that simple to me

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepurple View Post
    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I have some difficulty in understanding the following extract, esp., the last sentence. Could you help me out?

    In a grammar book, the author said that (in respect of the use of present continuous),

    'In the sentence "Usually, I am driving to work", the adverb "usually" indicates habitual action and so we must use the present simple. However, if we complete the sentence thus: Usually, I am driving to work at that time, there is no problem. The expression at that time creates a current context for the speaker or writer to point to.'

    Thank you.
    The author is saying that "Usually, I am driving to work" is an incorrect sentence, and that, "Usually, I am driving to work at that time" is a correct sentence.
    He's right. But his phrasing could be improved upon.
    What is the book? Is it a mainstream grammar book?

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    #3

    Re: Present Simple is not that simple to me

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    The author is saying that "Usually, I am driving to work" is an incorrect sentence, and that, "Usually, I am driving to work at that time" is a correct sentence.
    He's right. But his phrasing could be improved upon.
    What is the book? Is it a mainstream grammar book?
    Thanks, Raymott. It is a grammar reference and practice book known as "Exploring Grammar in Context" by Ronald Carter, Rebecca Hughes and Michael McCarthy. I just want to know how the time phrase "at that time" creates a current context.

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    #4

    Re: Present Simple is not that simple to me

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepurple View Post
    Thanks, Raymott. It is a grammar reference and practice book known as "Exploring Grammar in Context" by Ronald Carter, Rebecca Hughes and Michael McCarthy. I just want to know how the time phrase "at that time" creates a current context.
    It provides a fixed, recurrent time - say 08:45.
    "At 08:45 [on every work day], I'm usually driving to work." That's what you are usually doing at that time. You might leave home at 08:00 and it takes half an hour. Therefore, at 08:45, you are driving.

    If you said, "At 08:45, I usually drive to work", that means that you start to drive at that time. You leave for work at 08:45.
    Last edited by Raymott; 18-Nov-2010 at 10:38. Reason: fix typo

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    #5

    Re: Present Simple is not that simple to me

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post

    If you said, "At 08:45, I'm usually drive to work", that means that you start to drive at that time. You leave for work at 08:45.
    Typo

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    #6

    Re: Present Simple is not that simple to me

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    It provides a fixed, recurrent time - say 08:45.
    "At 08:45 [on every work day], I'm usually driving to work." That's what you are usually doing at that time. You might leave home at 08:00 and it takes half an hour. Therefore, at 08:45, you are driving.

    If you said, "At 08:45, I'm usually drive to work", that means that you start to drive at that time. You leave for work at 08:45.
    Thank you so much Raymott. But it leads me to another question: Why can't we use the present simple to show its regularity or the person's habit as stated by the author?

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    #7

    Re: Present Simple is not that simple to me

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepurple View Post
    Thank you so much Raymott. But it leads me to another question: Why can't we use the present simple to show its regularity or [of ?] the person's habit as stated by the author?
    Sorry, I don't understand the question.
    Why can't we use the present simple to show the regularity of what?
    What are you asserting is stated by the author?

    We do use the simple present to state a regular habit.
    "I usually drive to work at 08:30." "My habit is to drive to work at 08:30."

    The sentence you quoted in your first post doesn't make sense to me.
    'In the sentence "Usually, I am driving to work", the adverb "usually" indicates habitual action and so we must use the present simple.'
    We can't use the present simple in the sentence "Usually, I am driving to work", because the sentence is in the present progressive. Perhaps they mean we can't use that sentence. Or that, if we are tempted to use that sentence, we should use a sentence with the simple present instead.

    Instead of writing, "However, if we complete the sentence thus: Usually, I am driving to work at that time, there is no problem", they could have written, "However, if we form a sentence thus: 'Usually I am driving at that time', there is no problem."
    I also think "at that time creates a current context" is confusing. What it does is create a context for the period of time during which "I am driving" occurs.

    If you find you're having recurrent problems understanding this book, then maybe a different grammar book is what you need. I think I'd soon lose patience with it.

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    #8

    Re: Present Simple is not that simple to me

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Sorry, I don't understand the question.
    Why can't we use the present simple to show the regularity of what?
    What are you asserting is stated by the author?

    We do use the simple present to state a regular habit.
    "I usually drive to work at 08:30." "My habit is to drive to work at 08:30."

    The sentence you quoted in your first post doesn't make sense to me.
    'In the sentence "Usually, I am driving to work", the adverb "usually" indicates habitual action and so we must use the present simple.'
    We can't use the present simple in the sentence "Usually, I am driving to work", because the sentence is in the present progressive. Perhaps they mean we can't use that sentence. Or that, if we are tempted to use that sentence, we should use a sentence with the simple present instead.

    Instead of writing, "However, if we complete the sentence thus: Usually, I am driving to work at that time, there is no problem", they could have written, "However, if we form a sentence thus: 'Usually I am driving at that time', there is no problem."
    I also think "at that time creates a current context" is confusing. What it does is create a context for the period of time during which "I am driving" occurs.
    In the summary, the author states that "Care is needed when choosing between the present simple and the present continuous forms of verbs. Remember, the present simple is used to make generalisations, or convey information that is universal. For example,
    'Birds migrate south.' (general truth)
    'Birds are migrating south'(focus on an event happening at the time of speaking)"
    And according to my repeated study on the explanations given, I come to understand(maybe I'm wrong) that the author tries to emphasise that in a limiting regular context or situation, using present continuous (temporary in a limiting time or situation, IMO) rather than present simple (general and universal). There is another example illustrated as such in the same book:

    "I think it makes(is making is also possible) me realise how much of the time that I spend with my family is spent doing, you know, chores where I'm not having(don't have is also possible) quality time with another person(limiting situation, inserted by me)...I'm doing(rather than "do") the washing, and I'm doing(rather than "do") the cooking, I'm tidying(rather than "tidy") up."
    Last edited by Deepurple; 19-Nov-2010 at 04:28.

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