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    #1

    Present continuous + adverb of frequency

    English teacher

    My students already know that the simple present can be used to express habitual actions. They also know that this tense is often used with adverbs and expressions of frequency. So, they clearly understand the meaning of the sentence

    (1) I usually bathe Tommy at nine in the morning.

    The next step will be the present continuous and I’m a bit worried about its use with a point in time and an adverb of frequency.

    (2) At nine in the morning I’m usually bathing Tom.

    Do you think these explanations will be effective and easy to understand?

    (1) At nine in the morning I’m in the habit of bathing Tommy. I usually start at nine because Tommy is always very hungry in the morning and wants to have breakfast soon after he wakes up.

    (2) The bathing began before the point in time and probably continues after it. It is still a habit [as I understand it], but with (2) I want to point out that at nine in the morning the action is going on.

    Could you please suggest some more examples + explanation?

    Thanks a lot.
    WW
    Last edited by Walt Whitman; 29-Sep-2013 at 14:42. Reason: Sorry, "hungry", not "angry"

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Present continuous + adverb of frequency

    Quote Originally Posted by Walt Whitman View Post
    (1) I usually bathe Tommy at nine in the morning.
    'I usually bath Tom would be more natural. I usually give Tom a bath would be even more natural.
    (2) At nine in the morning Iím usually bathing Tom.
    I'm usually giving Tom a bath.
    (1) At nine in the morning Iím in the habit of bathing Tommy. I usually start at nine because Tommy is always very hungry in the morning and wants to have breakfast soon after he wakes up.
    That is a more suitable explanation for sentence #1.
    (2) The bathing began before the point in time and probably continues after it. It is still a habit [as I understand it], but with (2) I want to point out that at nine in the morning the action is going on.
    That's fine.

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Present continuous + adverb of frequency

    Quote Originally Posted by Walt Whitman View Post
    English teacher

    My students already know that the simple present can be used to express habitual actions. They also know that this tense is often used with adverbs and expressions of frequency. So, they clearly understand the meaning of the sentence

    (1) I usually bathe Tommy at nine in the morning.

    The next step will be the present continuous and I’m a bit worried about its use with a point in time and an adverb of frequency.

    (2) At nine in the morning I’m usually bathing Tom.

    Do you think these explanations will be effective and easy to understand?

    (1) At nine in the morning I’m in the habit of bathing Tommy. I usually start at nine because Tommy is always very hungry in the morning and wants to have breakfast soon after he wakes up.

    (2) The bathing began before the point in time and probably continues after it. It is still a habit [as I understand it], but with (2) I want to point out that at nine in the morning the action is going on.

    Could you please suggest some more examples + explanation?

    Thanks a lot.
    WW
    In AmE, "I usually bathe Tommy" is more common than "I usually bath Tommy", but I agree with 5jj that "give Tommy a bath" is the most common.

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    #4

    Re: Present continuous + adverb of frequency

    I know that “bathe” is more common in AE (and I take 5jj’s “would be more natural” bit as meaning “more natural in BE”). I agree that the phrase “give somebody a bath” would be even more natural and I’m definitely going to make use of it.
    I was wondering if it would be idiomatic to use the present continuous with other adverbs of frequency. For example:

    (1) I’m always / often reading the newspaper over breakfast / before dinner / after dinner, etc.[When I have breakfast / Before I have dinner / After dinner I like reading the latest news, so please tell the kids to keep silent or go to Aunt Bertha’s.]

    (2) I’m never working in the garden on Saturday afternoon, so feel free to call me whenever you like.[I’m usually busy with flowers and vegetables on Saturday morning, but after lunch I prefer doing something else in the house.]

    Would the simple present also work in sentence (2) of my first post and in the examples above?
    Or would there be a change of focus?
    WW

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    #5

    Re: Present continuous + adverb of frequency

    Quote Originally Posted by Walt Whitman View Post
    I know that “bathe” is more common in AE (and I take 5jj’s “would be more natural” bit as meaning “more natural in BE”). I agree that the phrase “give somebody a bath” would be even more natural and I’m definitely going to make use of it.
    I was wondering if it would be idiomatic to use the present continuous with other adverbs of frequency. For example:

    (1) I’m always / often reading the newspaper over breakfast / before dinner / after dinner, etc.[When I have breakfast / Before I have dinner / After dinner I like reading the latest news, so please tell the kids to keep silent or go to Aunt Bertha’s.]

    (2) I’m never working in the garden on Saturday afternoon, so feel free to call me whenever you like.[I’m usually busy with flowers and vegetables on Saturday morning, but after lunch I prefer doing something else in the house.]

    Would the simple present also work in sentence (2) of my first post and in the examples above?
    Or would there be a change of focus?
    WW
    Yes, the simple present would work in your 2nd original sentence. In your new examples, the simple present would also work. Please note, however, that in the new first sentence "reading" is not a present continuous verb; it is a gerund.

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    #6

    Re: Present continuous + adverb of frequency

    (1) I’m always / often reading (present progressive/continuous) the newspaper over breakfast / before dinner / after dinner, etc.[When I have breakfast / Before I have dinner / After dinner I like reading (gerund) the latest news, so please tell the kids to keep silent or go to Aunt Bertha’s.

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    #7

    Re: Present continuous + adverb of frequency

    Yes, Mike and 5jj, I agree with you: “reading” is a gerund. I've made use of it in the sentence in brackets as an explanation for (1). “Doing” in the explanation provided for (2) is also a gerund. My students already know gerunds. Last year I did a learning unit about likes and dislikes (like, love, hate, etc).
    As Mike said, the simple present would also work in all of the sentences I’ve posted. So, what my students need to know is:

    simple present > focus on habitual or permanent actions and situations (I always read the newspaper over breakfast = every day at breakfast time)
    present continuous > focus on actions going within a specific time span (for example, over breakfast would mean, say, from 7 to 7:00).

    Did I get this right?
    WW

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    #8

    Re: Present continuous + adverb of frequency

    Quote Originally Posted by Walt Whitman View Post
    present continuous > focus on actions going within a specific time span (for example, over breakfast would mean, say, from 7 to 7:00).
    I don't entirely agree with the 'specific' time span. I prefer to think of continuous/progressive forms as suggesting the limited duration of the situation.

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    #9

    Re: Present continuous + adverb of frequency

    5jj, I have no intention of disagreeing with you; I’m just trying to get things right.

    (1) Context: talking with a friend at Aunt Betsy’s.
    You know, my mother has to work late, so I’m staying here for the night.
    [This is what I would call a temporary situation or, as you suggest, “a limited duration of the situation”. Tomorrow my mother will come back at 5 in the afternoon, just as always, and I won’t have to sleep over.]

    (2) Same context.
    You know, my mother works the night shift at a clothing factory, so I’m always staying here for the night.
    [This is what I would call “a specific time span”: from 10 in the evening to 6 in the morning.
    I don’t see this “time span” as suggesting a limited duration of the situation, which is not going to change, neither tomorrow nor the day after tomorrow. Paradoxically enough, the part containing the adverb of frequency could also be parsed as a habitual action. For this reason I believe we could also say, “I always stay here for the night.”
    The present continuous would focus more on the time span, whereas the simple present would focus more on the subject’s usual behaviour.]

    Maybe neither explanation is correct, maybe I’m just splitting hairs. I’m a bit confused and would really appreciate if you took a deeper look into the matter.
    WW

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    #10

    Re: Present continuous + adverb of frequency

    Quote Originally Posted by Walt Whitman View Post
    (1) Context: talking with a friend at Aunt Betsy’s.
    You know, my mother has to work late, so I’m staying here for the night.
    [This is what I would call a temporary situation or, as you suggest, “a limited duration of the situation”. Tomorrow my mother will come back at 5 in the afternoon, just as always, and I won’t have to sleep over.

    (2) Same context.
    You know, my mother works the night shift at a clothing factory, so I’m always staying here for the night.
    [This is what I would call “a specific time span”: from 10 in the evening to 6 in the morning.
    The time period ('for the night') is no more, or less specific in the second sentence than in the first.
    I don’t see this “time span” as suggesting a limited duration of the situation, which is not going to change, neither tomorrow nor the day after tomorrow.
    The very fact that the speaker has not used the present simple suggests that there is a limit to the time period in which he will be staying. It is certainly more than for a day or two, though it may well be only for a day or two at a time.
    Paradoxically enough, the part containing the adverb of frequency could also be parsed as a habitual action. For this reason I believe we could also say, “I always stay here for the night.”
    The present continuous would focus more on the time span, whereas the simple present would focus more on the subject’s usual behaviour.(My emphasis added - 5)
    And there you have it, The present simple focuses on the subject's usual behaviour. The continuous form suggests that it is not usual - i.e, that it is for a limited period only.

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