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  1. #1
    Rachel Adams is offline Key Member
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    Is closing or closes

    I read in "Practical English Grammar" by Michael Swan when making a comment native speakers use present simple for shorter actions and present progressive for longer actions. In my sentence would it be wrong to consider "close" a shorter action and use present simple? Two people are watching someone and B says what he sees.

    A: "What is he doing?"

    B: "He is closing the door."

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    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: Is closing or closes

    Only the progressive is possible there, but the duration of the act has nothing to do with it. It would be odd to use a different aspect in the reply than the one used in the question, and there's no reason for the present simple. You could use it in a dialog like this, where it describes a habitual, repeated act:

    What does he do when he gets home from work?

    He takes off his shoes, puts on his slippers, and has a gin and tonic.
    I am not a teacher.

  3. #3
    teechar's Avatar
    teechar is offline Moderator
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    Re: Is closing or closes

    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Adams View Post
    when making a comment, native speakers use present simple for shorter actions
    Does he give some examples?

  4. #4
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    Re: Is closing or closes

    After watching the video, the present simple would be possible if someone was reporting what happened using the present tense.

    Teacher: OK, you all watched the video. Let's see if you were concentrating. What does Peter do when he enters the room?
    Student: He opens the window.
    Teacher: That's right. Then what?
    Student: Then he closes the door and turns on the TV.

    Of course, that entire dialogue would be equally possible with the simple past.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    Rachel Adams is offline Key Member
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    Re: Is closing or closes

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    After watching the video, the present simple would be possible if someone was reporting what happened using the present tense.

    Teacher: OK, you all watched the video. Let's see if you were concentrating. What does Peter do when he enters the room?
    Student: He opens the window.
    Teacher: That's right. Then what?
    Student: Then he closes the door and turns on the TV.

    Of course, that entire dialogue would be equally possible with the simple past.
    Can I post the screenshot for a larger text with examples and explanations?

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    Rachel Adams is offline Key Member
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    Re: Is closing or closes

    Quote Originally Posted by teechar View Post
    Does he give some examples?
    He gives many. I will upload the screenshot if it is okay.

  7. #7
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    Re: Is closing or closes

    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Adams View Post
    He gives many. I will upload the screenshot if it is okay.
    OK, or you could just write one or two of those examples.

  8. #8
    Rachel Adams is offline Key Member
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    Re: Is closing or closes

    Quote Originally Posted by teechar View Post
    OK, or you could just write one or two of those examples.
    Stories

    Present tenses are often used informally to tell stories. The simple present is used for the events -the things that happen one after another. The present progressive is used for "background" -things that are already happening when the story starts, or that continue through the story. "So I open the door, and I look out into the garden, and I see this man. "He is wearing pyjamas and a policeman's helmet. "Hello," he says ...

    "There's this Scotsman, and he's walking through the jungle when he meets a gorilla. And the gorilla's eating a snake. So the Scotsman asks..."

    "In Act I, Hamlet sees the ghost of his father. The ghost tells him..."

    "Chapter 2: Henry goes to Scotland and meets the Loch Ness Monster."

    Commentaries

    In commentsries, the use of tenses is similar. The simple present is used for the quicker actions and events (which are finished before the sentences that describe them; the present progressive is used for longer actions and situations. There are more simple and fewer progressive tenses in a football commentary, for instance, than in a commentary on a boat race.

    "Smith passes to Delaney, Devaney to Barnes-and Harris intercepts..."

    "Oxford are pulling slightly ahead of Cambridge now; they're rowing with a Oxford are pulling slightly ahead of Cambridge now; they're rowing with a beautiful rhythm; Cambridge are looking a little disorganized..."

    Then the book describes instructions and demonstrations and says "We often use the two present tenses in a similar way to give instructions, demonstrations and directions.

    "OK, let's go over it again. You wait outside the bank until the manager arrives. Then you radio Louie, who's waiting round the corner, and the drives round to the front entrance. You and Louie grab the manager."

    "First, I put a lump of butter into a frying pan and light the gas; then while the butter's melting I break three eggs into a bowl, like this..."

    I asked my question after reading these rules and examples. So present simple doesn't always work when commenting. If I was describing another situation in which a person is also commenting and says:

    A: "What is he doing? Is he still talking?"
    (They are watching someone else)

    B: "No, he hangs up." Does present simple sound natural here or would it be better to say: "He is hanging up?"

    While I was writing this post I remembered a scene from "Rat Race" in which Rowan Atkinson's character suddenly falls asleep. Before he falls asleep the man who is near him is talking on the phone. His comments are in the progressive.

    A: "What is he doing?"

    B: "He is closing the door."

    01:32:27,963 --> 01:32:30,799
    It's you.
    He's holding the key.

    1279
    01:32:30,865 --> 01:32:32,901
    Ah.

    1280
    01:32:32,968 --> 01:32:35,237
    And he's going
    to the locker.

    1281
    01:32:36,805 --> 01:32:40,475
    Mr. Pollini,
    well done, sir.
    And congratulations.

    1282
    01:32:40,542 --> 01:32:43,678
    On behalf
    of Mr. Donald Sinclair,
    the Venetian Hotel and Casino...
    Last edited by Rachel Adams; 19-Jan-2021 at 17:35.

  9. #9
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    Charlie Bernstein is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Is closing or closes

    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Adams View Post
    I read in "Practical English Grammar" by Michael Swan when making a comment native speakers use present simple for shorter actions and present progressive for longer actions. In my sentence would it be wrong to consider "close" a shorter action and use present simple? Two people are watching someone and B says what he sees.

    A: "What is he doing?"

    B: "He is closing the door."
    Two other things:

    1. The question is What is?, so the answer should follow that form: He is.

    2. If the question were What does?, the answer that follows the form would be He closes, not He close.
    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.

  10. #10
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Is closing or closes

    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Adams View Post
    I read in "Practical English Grammar" by Michael Swan when making a comment native speakers use present simple for shorter actions and present progressive for longer actions
    He's talking about commentaries , like sport on TV, not comments, so a football/soccer commentator could say:

    He's racing down the field (longer action). He gets the ball and shoots and scores (all shorter actions)
    These are not universal rules, but he's looking at certain contexts- stories, instructions and commentaries.

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