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Present Simple Vs. Present Continuous

Some grammar books argue that the present simple expresses a habit while the present continuous expresses an action that is happening just at this moment. This can be seen in the following examples.

     Tom reads. [habit] vs. Jessica is reading. [right now]

However, while these tenses can be used to express these meanings, it is not the whole story. In fact, there is an inherent flaw in using such examples to teach the simple vs. continuous. No one uses such sentences in real world communication outside of a discourse, i.e without a context. Further still, such sentences in the simple present usually are accompanied by an adverb denoting frequency or time if we want to express a habitual meaning.

     Tom reads everyday.

The form of the tense does not in itself ensure a habitual meaning. Compare the following examples

     Tom wakes up early everyday.

     Tom is waking up early everyday.

Is it the tense that tells us that this is Tom's habit, or is it the frequency adverb?

Back to   The Past Tenses


page last modified: April 12, 2014

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