Author Topic: The continuous aspect  (Read 3998 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.

Offline mallu

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Re: The continuous aspect
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2020, 12:18:50 AM »
You said progressives described people in particular state, then how would we distinguish between progressives and statives?

Offline Daniel

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Re: The continuous aspect
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2020, 02:51:51 AM »
Generally we don't, which is why statives don't tend to be marked in progressive forms:

For example, "knowing" is a state, so we don't say "I'm knowing English", just "I know English". The progressive marking isn't needed because that's already understood in the simple present form. If used, it might indicate something like immediacy (right now), but most native speakers of English don't use that, although I've heard many non-native speakers (for example Germans) use it, as well as (I'm not sure whether native or non-native) Indians, so this might be a more general form in Indian English (even among native speakers).

There are some exceptions, such as describing intentional behavior:
"Stop being mean!"
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Offline Rock100

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Re: The continuous aspect
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2020, 10:13:28 AM »
> For example, "knowing" is a state, so we don't say "I'm knowing English", just "I know English".
> …
> There are some exceptions, such as describing intentional behavior:
> "Stop being mean!"
I am not a native English speaker and my English is absolutely bookish one. Books say that the thread has been talking about Present Participle Active while your exception no doubt may be qualified as Indefinite Gerund Active (the Gerund is the direct object). And if I were a native English speaker I would probably find “Stop knowing it!” a little bit strange but acceptable.

Offline Daniel

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Re: The continuous aspect
« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2020, 04:06:18 PM »
Actually my example wasn't the best choice to specifically illustrate the progressive, just pragmatically clear. Similar, but better example:
He is being mean!

Quote
And if I were a native English speaker I would probably find “Stop knowing it!” a little bit strange but acceptable.
You're right. There's nothing grammatically wrong with it. It's just pragmatically odd. "Stop believing it!" makes more sense because we're more capable of controlling our beliefs than knowledge, for example.
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