Author Topic: The continuous aspect  (Read 393 times)

Offline Natalia

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The continuous aspect
« on: March 24, 2020, 05:01:37 AM »
How would you explain the use of the continuous forms in the examples below? I know we can use the present continuous (among others) to talk about what is going on around a particular time that we are thinking of. Is it the case here? And I was wondering - do these continuous forms sound more polite than the simple forms in brackets?
1. Today I’m going to show you 10 fashion designer names that you might be pronouncing incorrectly. (vs “that you might pronounce”)
2. When you’re learning another language and nobody is correcting you, you might start to get little errors ingrained into your brain. (vs “nobody corrects you”)
3. A: Women like to be asked for a dance.
    B: I think I'm at the stage where I shouldn't be asking women for a dance! (vs “I shouldn’t ask”)
« Last Edit: March 25, 2020, 04:19:05 AM by Natalia »

Offline Daniel

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Re: The continuous aspect
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2020, 02:10:04 PM »
Most of those predicates would typically be expressed in the simple present, because the distinction between habitual and current is rarely important. But when someone does choose to express them in the progressive form, the emphasis is on their continuous, ongoing relevance. Adding the adverb "continuously" to each sentence gives a good idea of what they mean.

"No one corrects you" means that in general there there are no corrections. But "[Continuously] no one is correcting you" means that there are many missed opportunities for correction.
(Note that this repetitive reading is slightly distinct from the in-the-moment reading "Listen to me! I'm correcting you right now!" It's a habitual reading. Sometimes this is called verbal plurality, where the event is iterated.)

Another way of looking at this is that the progressive describes people in a particular state, not doing a particular (punctual) action. Here the attitude seems to be that they are stuck in a state and should change. (That isn't the only possible attitude associated with this usage of progressive, but often there is some specific pragmatic reason for using this form emphatically.)

Finally, sometimes this usage of the progressive can emphasize that the subject is doing the action intentionally: converting what is often considered a state into usage that is typical of actions, suggesting they are choosing to be like that. This is most obvious with the verb "be" itself, which generally does not have a progressive form, but in conversation sometimes has forms like "You're being mean", where the implication is that the subject is making a decision. (This is a type of aspectual coercion where the construction doesn't match the lexical item and therefore must express something else.)
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Offline Natalia

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Re: The continuous aspect
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2020, 04:23:01 AM »
Thank you for your explanation.