study / studying [University, college, school]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by vincix, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. vincix Senior Member

    Can anyone tell me the difference between:

    I am studying at the college / study at college?

    I know that they usually say "I go to University" when you refer to being enrolled in their courses. And I've come across present continuous "I am studying at the college" and I don't really understand why that happens. Another well known example that I know of is "I go to school" meaning, again, that I'm enrolled in their class. So how does the difference function here?

  2. ESustad Senior Member

    Washington, DC
    English - (Minnesota)
    "I'm in college" is most common.

    "School" is the most general term. Universities are collections of more than one college, which is American English for the Latinate "faculty." Not all colleges are part of a university.
  3. vincix Senior Member

    I am sorry, I must not have been specific enough. What I'm mostly interested in is the difference between present simple and present continuous. If that, in turn, entails a distinction as far as the type of educational institution is concerned, then I'm interested in knowing it.
  4. Mahantongo

    Mahantongo Senior Member

    English (U.S.)
    While it would be grammatical to say either "I am studying at the college", or "I study at the college", in American English both sentences would be odd and unnatural. Speakers of American English simply do not use the word "study" this way. We say we go to a school, or attend a school, but it is not common, natural language to say we study at/are studying at a school.
  5. vincix Senior Member

    It is true that I saw this example "I am studying at the [can't remember exactly what it was; and I hope I remember that "at the" prepositions correctly] University (or whatever that was)" in a British English book. Thanks for you reply. I'd also want to ask, is it possible to say "I am attending a school" if you're referring to the fact that you are enrolled in their courses, or the present continuous use is only allowed when you're referring to a particular point in time (now; I am planning to etc.)?
  6. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    The continuous tense has the nuance of a duration; over time; as time passes; the verb is expressing a continuing action. The simple present de-emphasises (but does not completely remove) the aspect of time in favour of a regular, habitual, or single action.

    The choice of continuous or simple tenses is usually not too important (except in verbs that rarely form the continuous) and may be dictated by the context:

    A: "I will be visiting Cambridge for a few days next week."
    B: "Oh! That is good. I am studying at Cambridge, perhaps we could meet?" (Here, the continuous has been used, in combination with time, to indicate that A will be in Cambridge continuously (for a few days) and (coincidentally) B will be in Cambridge for quite a while.

    A: I visit Cambridge next week.
    B: I study at Cambridge.
    A: "It is a wonderful city with much to see.
    B: "Yes. The Fitzwilliam is worth a visit."

    This conversation revolves around the place; not the time.
  7. vincix Senior Member

    Well, yeah, I kind of know the theory, but what interested me was that particular example. Now I remember it exactly.

    "I am studying at the same college as you".

    So what I'm asking is, why was the sentence not "I study at the same college as you"? meaning, of course, that I am enrolled in the courses that take place at the particular college.

    But now that I've re-read your post, you've probably already answered (at least partially). On the other hand, how come "I visit Cambridge next week" is correct? I thought it was necessary to say "I am visiting Cambridge next week" - meaning "I am planning to". In a (British) grammar book, if you have to choose between present simple and present continuous, and the following sentence is given "I (visit) Cambridge next week", I am certain that the only correct answer that that book will consider correct is "I am visiting". I have no doubt about that. But I suppose language works in different ways too. If you could comment on that, I'd be grateful :)
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  8. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    First, see my signature. :)

    There is no reason not to use the simple present when speaking of the future if there is a time phrase/reference in the sentence.
    A; "My tooth is hurting me!"
    B: "Well go to the dentist."
    A: "I go to the dentist tomorrow. I want something to take away the pain now."

    (Miss out a time reference and it seems habitual. This is probably the reason for the guidance in grammar books: you're more likely to be correct using the continuous.)

    The simple present is also common in lists:

    "Look at my diary! It's full! This afternoon I meet John; tomorrow morning I see Pierre; in the afternoon I speak at the conference; Thursday, I review the project and on Friday I am in Tajikistan!"
  9. vincix Senior Member

    Thanks a lot for your answer. This is enlightening for me :)

    The use of present simple in lists seems more familiar to me too, actually, now that I think about it.

    Just one more question (more or less a reiteration of what I've already asked you): what if we used "I am going to the dentist tomorrow"? What would be the difference in terms of style, register, etc.? Or is it just simply an option that doesn't have too much bearing on the meaning?
  10. CalvinJ New Member

    I think "faculty" shows broader meanings. It is batter choice rather than "school" or "college".
  11. vincix Senior Member

    We are already past that stage :)
  12. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    I suspect that "I am going to the dentist tomorrow" is the commonest reply and suits all registers. Your observation, "is it just simply an option that doesn't have too much bearing on the meaning?" is astute.

    You will see that B says: "Well go to the dentist." this imperative can be taken as telling someone to do the obvious thing, and thus sound a little rude. The reply, A: "I go to the dentist tomorrow." is a little more likely to be taken as being equally curt/sharp, rather than simply informative, whereas, "I am going to the dentist tomorrow" there would have to be an emphasis on the "am" to achieve the same tone. This difference is, in reality, exceptionally slight.
  13. vincix Senior Member

    Thanks again. You've been really helpful.

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