continual/continuous shifting of attention

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WildWest

Senior Member
Turkish
Hello. The first of the sentences below is from Cambridge Online Dictionary, whereas the latter from an episode of "Note to Self", a podcast by WYNC.

"During the press conference, each boxer tried to stare the other down (=force the other to look away by continual staring)."

"There is a continual shifting of attention throughout the day."

In both samples, do you think it is possible to replace continual with continuous without any loss in the meaning?
 
  • Dretagoto

    Senior Member
    Inglés británico
    From the Word Reference dictionary:

    Use continual for actions that are repeated frequently or occur over and over again (especially actions that are annoying): The dog's continual barking was driving me nuts. The word continuous is used for actions that keep going and do not stop: The world of that novel was one long continuous war, between Eastasia and Oceania, or Eurasia and Oceania, it never mattered which.
    So, no, technically you couldn't replace them, because the meaning will change, at least a little. However, lots of native English-speakers use these two terms incorrectly and interchangeably, so your sentences would still be understood, even if you changed the word.
     
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