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    #1

    What are we talking/do we talk about when we talk about X?

    Hello! Sometimes I come across sentences like ''What are we talking about/do we talk about when we talk about happiness/love/life/business?"

    Is there any difference in meaning between variants with and without the present progressive?

    I couldn't find any variants with the present progressive + the present progressive or the present simple + the present progressive. Are these variants impossible? If so, why?
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  2. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: What are we talking/do we talk about when we talk about X?

    Here's present simple: Raymond Carver: "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love."
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #3

    Re: What are we talking/do we talk about when we talk about X?

    The use is the same and that's what's important. You don't need to worry about differences in meaning.

    Both versions very basically mean something like What do we mean by ...?

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    #4

    Re: What are we talking/do we talk about when we talk about X?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    The use is the same and that's what's important. You don't need to worry about differences in meaning.

    Both versions very basically mean something like What do we mean by ...?
    I couldn't find any examples with the present simple + the present progressive like "What do we talk about when we are talking about X?" These parts are not interchangeable. It means that even if I say, "We don't know what we talk about when we talk about love", the blue and the red parts will be different in some respect. What's the difference? It might have something to do with 'what' and 'when'.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 12-May-2020 at 15:23.
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  5. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: What are we talking/do we talk about when we talk about X?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    I couldn't find examples with the present simple + the present progressive like "What do we talk about when we are talking about X?"
    Right. That doesn't surprise me.

    These parts are not interchangeable. It means that even if I say, "We don't know what we talk about when we talk about love", the blue and the red parts will be different in some respect. What's the difference? It might have something to do with ""what" and "when".
    When the parts are symmetrical (both present simple), you can understand them in the same way, with no difference. But when the first is continuous and the second is simple, then yes, there is a difference.

    You can understand this difference in terms of general/specific. The second clause is always more general, which is why it is always without aspect (i.e., in present simple). The first clause can be either simple (general) or continuous (specific).

    Like I said, you don't need to worry about these differences in meaning. It's the use of the sentence frame that's important. That is, in terms of pragmatic (speaker) meaning, there's no difference.

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    #6

    Re: What are we talking/do we talk about when we talk about X?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    You can understand this difference in terms of general/specific. The second clause is always more general, which is why it is always without aspect (i.e., in present simple). The first clause can be either simple (general) or continuous (specific).
    That's what I wanted to know. Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    When the parts are symmetrical (both present simple), you can understand them in the same way, with no difference.
    Let me disagree. They are identical in form, but the 'general/specific' distinction is still in play. I think it has to do with 'what' and 'when'.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Like I said, you don't need to worry about these differences in meaning.
    Not that I'm worried. I'm interested.
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    #7

    Re: What are we talking/do we talk about when we talk about X?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    Let me disagree. They are identical in form, but the 'general/specific' distinction is still in play. I think it has to do with 'what' and 'when'.
    I don't entirely disagree with that.

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    #8

    Re: What are we talking/do we talk about when we talk about X?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    The second clause is always more general, which is why it is always without aspect (i.e., in present simple). The first clause can be either simple (general) or continuous (specific).
    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    They are identical in form, but the 'general/specific' distinction is still in play. I think it has to do with 'what' and 'when'.
    I mean if I'm right about 'what' and 'when', the second clause can be specific: When we talk about love, what are we talking about?

    What do you think?
    Last edited by Alexey86; 12-May-2020 at 16:29.
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    #9

    Re: What are we talking/do we talk about when we talk about X?

    Yes, you've just swapped the positions of the clauses so that the 'second' clause now comes first.

    (I'm quite keen for other members to express their views on this matter.)

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    #10

    Re: What are we talking/do we talk about when we talk about X?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I'm quite keen for other members to express their views on this matter.
    I would be glad to see other opinions too.
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