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    #1

    perfect simple / progressive for permanent actions

    Hello,

    I'm aware of the implications of progressive and simple aspects, but my knowledge seems to become shaky when it comes to using present perfect simple/progressive to describe a permanent action. Grammars differ on this question. Some verbs such as 'work' and 'live' can be used with either tense, but I'm not sure how many other verbs that 'guideline' can be extended to. I've made up some sentences and commented on them; I'd appreciate it if somebody had a look at them.

    1 (a) The company has been making computers for over 50 years.
    (b) The company has made computers for over 50 years.

    I feel (a) is as common as (b).

    2 (a) I've been driving for ages.
    (b) I've driven for ages.

    It seems to me (a) is more common than (b).

    3. (a) I've been drinking black coffee all my life.
    (b) I've drunk black coffee all my life.

    (a) seems far better to me, however, I'm not certain a native speaker feels the same.

    Thank you.

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    #2

    Re: perfect simple / progressive for permanent actions

    I agree with your conclusion but these sentences have no context.

    If, for example, the action in questions might soon cease, the simple present perfect tense might be my choice.

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    #3

    Re: perfect simple / progressive for permanent actions

    Thank you. There is no context because I tried to make up sentences in the format of test questions, which usually provide no context. Perhaps it's not fair to learners, but most of the time they have to deal with context-free exercises, which is a pity.

    The problem is that although the progressive might be more preferable in 2 and 3, it's not clear why the perfect simple is as good as progressive in 1.

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    #4

    Re: perfect simple / progressive for permanent actions

    Quote Originally Posted by Verona_82 View Post
    Thank you. There is no context because I tried to make up sentences in the format of test questions, which usually provide no context. Perhaps it's not fair to learners, but most of the time they have to deal with context-free exercises, which is a pity.

    It seems that we cannot get away from context-free test questions, so teachers and students alike have to learn to live with them. However, in a serious analysis of the meaning conveyed by tenses/aspects, there is little point in trying this without context. In real life, nothing is said or written without some form of context, though exactly what that context is may be known only to the speaker/writer, and even then not always consciously.

    The problem is that although the progressive might be more preferable in 2 and 3, it's not clear why the perfect simple is as good as progressive in 1.
    Let's have a look:
    1 (a) The company has been making computers for over 50 years.
    (b) The company has made computers for over 50 years.


    Unless we are standing in front of a machine churning out computers, (and that would give us context!) the present-moment manufacturing process is almost certainly not uppermost in the speaker's mind. The manufacturing of computers has presumably been going on (during working hours at least) without any significant break. Without further context, either form is possible.

    2 (a) I've been driving for ages.
    (b) I've driven for ages.

    'For ages' suggests to me that the speaker is still driving; the very fact that s/he has said this suggests that s/he is drawing attention to the duration of the driving. With no context to go on (although I have already had to imagine some tentative context), we can only guess that the progressive form is more likely to be uttered. Without even the the nebulous context that I have suggested, either form is possible.

    3. (a) I've been drinking black coffee all my life.
    (b) I've drunk black coffee all my life.

    Without context, it is impossible to say which of these two will be uttered; either form is possible.
    Last edited by 5jj; 22-Jun-2011 at 11:05.

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