EN: What have you done / been doing? / What did you do?

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Manuel Delpierre

New Member
French
Good morning everybody, am I right in thinking that not a single person, even native English, can explain this "present perfect vs continuous opposition"? Everybody is so confused, the reason is than even linguists can't explain the difference, just assumptions, I am a linguistic myself, I have been studying this progressive aspect for years and not a clear answer!
I would say that most of the time is it "bad English", conversational. In French for example, you would say to translate: What have you been doing this morning - "Qu'est-ce tu as fait d'beau ce (c') matin" - c'est-à-dire du français familier et qui concerne le parler de tous les jours...
 
  • Manuel Delpierre

    New Member
    French
    Je n'est pas dit que c'était "sorcier", j'ai dit que personne n'avait compris ce sujet, car trop complexe...
    Je ne présente pas d'exemple en particulier.

    I teach this language myself, English I mean.

    La plupart du temps il y a un sous-entendu qui est familier, avez-vous étudié la linguistique ?
     
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    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    j'ai dit que personne n'avait compris ce sujet, car trop complexe
    Parlez pour vous ! :p

    La plupart du temps il y a un sous-entendu qui est familier
    Je ne suis pas du tout de cet avis. Veuillez étayer vos dires à l'aide de sources digne de foi.


    ---

    Je ne présente pas d'exemple en particulier.
    Sauf que cela n'a guère de sens de débattre d'un cas abstrait général. Cela sortirait d'ailleurs totalement du cadre de nos forums. Seules sont en effet admises les questions précises dans un contexte précis (cf. nos us et coutumes). Si vous voulez poursuivre la discussion, veuillez donner une phrase précise ainsi que son contexte.

    Maître Capello
    Modérateur
     

    Chimel

    Senior Member
    Français
    La plupart du temps il y a un sous-entendu qui est familier, avez-vous étudié la linguistique ?
    Relisez les échanges précédents, et notamment la comparaison entre "What have you done?" et "What have you been doing?", remarquablement expliquée par nos excellents contributeurs anglophones Jann et Keith Bradford (messages 48 et 50): il n'est nullement question d'un sous-entendu familier (et ce qu'on ait étudié la linguistique ou non... :rolleyes: ).
     

    Manuel Delpierre

    New Member
    French
    Comme je vous ai dit les anglophones ne sont pas des linguistes, la plupart ne savent pas pourquoi ils ont posé cette forme ou une autre, leur réflexion ou plutôt automatisme est basée sur une intuition ou encore : je l'ai entendu dire de cette façon alors ce doit être ça. Le point de vue d'un anglophone n'est pas forcément révélateur. Même chose pour un Français avec sa langue, mais la différence c'est qu'en français on nous oblige à employer telle ou telle forme, le choix est réduit.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Good morning everybody, am I right in thinking that not a single person, even native English, can explain this "present perfect vs continuous opposition"? Everybody is so confused, the reason is than even linguists can't explain the difference, just assumptions, I am a linguistic myself, I have been studying this progressive aspect for years and not a clear answer!
    I would say that most of the time is it "bad English", conversational. In French for example, you would say to translate: What have you been doing this morning - "Qu'est-ce tu as fait d'beau ce (c') matin" - c'est-à-dire du français familier et qui concerne le parler de tous les jours...
    I'm sorry, Manuel, I may not be able to explain it well enough to satisfy a meticulous French person (French isn't my native language) but I can assure you that I'm not in the least confused about it. And I'm absolutely certain that neither form is "bad English", nor more conversational than the other.

    Here are a couple of examples from current news, expressed in correct, formal language. The first shows very clearly in one sentence the distinction between the process (debating) and result (succeeded) which I spoke about in #50; the second and third show the same distinction in separate sentences:
    • For many years now the Governments have been promising the eradication of child labour in hazardous industries in India. But the truth is that despite all the rhetoric no Government so far has succeeded in eradicating this evil...
    • Today, Parliament has been debating support for areas facing additional Covid restrictions...
    • Parliament has decided to restrict alcohol sales on its premises, after outrage when it emerged it did not have to follow the 10pm curfew ...
     

    Manuel Delpierre

    New Member
    French
    Thank you very much indeed to have taken time to answer this issue. It would be very useful for you to study Henri Adamczewski and Jean-Pierre Gabilan, both argue about the progressive aspect in English. It more about theme and rheme, unfortunately it is in French language. For example be + Ing (instead of progressive form), would suggest a kind of connivance or complicity with the co-speaker, it is implied he already knows a part of it, so it is a progression a theme.
     
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    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    You're talking about marginal nuances which may (or may not) exist. I'm talking about the basic meaning of the two tenses which is as plain as the nose on one's face.

    I wonder how useful it is to apply a French abstract-philosophical approach to an eminently pragmatic language like English. I certainly can't conjure up on the nonce any example which would bear out Manuel's theory of "connivance or complicity with the co-speaker".
     

    Manuel Delpierre

    New Member
    French
    The English language has never been explained properly, that is why linguists such as those I mentioned have to do something. They couldn't teach their students from books that were so defective, faulty. I have studied almost every reference grammar and linguistics books, most of them are "wrong". I am looking for the "new book". Maybe 2022 or 2030, I'll wait.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I've been thinking further about this,

    Essentially, the content of the message, the meaning, is this:
    1. What have you been doing? (engagement de moyens) = How have you spent your time?
    2. What have you done? (engagement de résultat) = What result have you achieved?
    In social terms 1. is the sort of question we ask of a child or a non-professional worker; 2. is asked of a responsible adult or a professional. That may lead us to think that the continuous form has something intrinsically a sous-entendu qui est familier.

    Now, it's true that the form of the message is that 1. is the present perfect continuous, and 2. is the simple present perfect. But that is not relevant - it's perfectly possible to rephrase them both in the present perfect as I did in the dark blue sentences in lines 5 and 6 above. Or it's perfectly possible to rephrase them both in the continuous form (How have you been spending your time?... What have you been achieving?...)

    Is that where Adamczewski and Gabilan have gone wrong? Are they mistaking the content for the form?
     

    ForeverHis

    Senior Member
    American English
    M. Delpierre, I can assure you that the native Anglophones are spot on in their understanding of the usages of the present continuous vs the present perfect tenses. The use of the present continuous isn't bad English at all! In fact, it's a rather sophisticated nuance of the English language. I read a bit of the works you cited. (It's dry reading, but certainly understandable.) Perhaps, this excellent linguistic analysis of the progressive aspect will help you. It's more nuanced than you might think. Good day.
    The BE + -ING form: Progressive aspect and metonymy
     
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    Manuel Delpierre

    New Member
    French
    Thanks for your answer, I had already read this, it is a criticism about Adamczewski's theory. Anyway this theory is based on "invariant". Adamczewski argues about the progressive form, for him it didn't exist "at all".

    I am sure English people are spot on when they use the progressive from, but it is the explanation of it, it is rarely clear or appropriate.

    As for "What have you been doing vs What have you done" the difference maybe that the simple form could be used by someone who tries/is trying (try or trying?) to avoid the -Ing form, as I told you the progressive form can be more informal.

    By the way, I am not writing this to be "unpleasant", I just want to understand how the English language works, especially this progressive form.
     
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    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    ... the simple form could be used by someone who tries/is trying (try or trying?) to avoid the -Ing form, as I told you the progressive form can be more informal...
    Why on earth would we try to avoid the progressive? We don't think it's in the least informal - see my quotations in #57 - it's only you that thinks that.

    Face it, English has an extra tool in its box (compared with French). These things happen. Less long study and more time in conversation with English people might help you to use the tool more effectively.
     

    Manuel Delpierre

    New Member
    French
    Good advice. So I assume (or is it assuming) your English is based from conversations, street level, and not from books, I understand now.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    My English is obtained:
    • From listening to my parents for five years;
    • Then from 17 years' classroom study and practice from kindergarden to M.A. level;
    • From a total of 74 years' daily practice in conversation with people at all levels in society;
    • From reading good authors, from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Pratchett and Rankin;
    • From frequent reading of practical books on style and usage (Lucas, Gowers, Partridge, Fowler, Truss...);
    • From zero study of theoretical linguistics.
     
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    Manuel Delpierre

    New Member
    French
    My English is obtained:
    • From listening to my parents for five years;
    • Then from 17 years' classroom study and practice from kindergarden to M.A. level;
    • From a total of 74 years' daily practice;
    • From reading good authors;
    • From frequent reading of practical books on style and usage (Lucas, Gowers, Partridge, Fowler, Truss...);
    • From zero study of theoretical grammar books.
    Great! They are not from theoretical grammar though, they are based from actual English. Did you have grammar lessons at school, does it exist in UK?
     

    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    Bonjour,

    J'ai bien peur que cette discussion ne sorte totalement du cadre de nos forums. Comme je l'ai déjà dit plus haut, seules sont admises les questions précises dans un contexte précis (voir nos us et coutumes). Or votre question est beaucoup trop générale. Ce fil est par conséquent fermé.

    Merci de votre compréhension.

    Maître Capello
    Modérateur
     
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