experience versus are experiencing

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Ivan_I

Banned
Russian
This is an excerpt from an English textbook with exercises.

"I can't stand people who never stop apologizing all the time" - she told me. And besides I know he is deceiving poor Helen. He is seeing Betty Wills from the overseas department. And plenty of other interesting things are currently going on. For instance, we are experiencing more and more problems with theft.

I wonder

1) Is Present Simple possible in "For instance, we experience more and more problems with theft."
2) Is Present Simple possible in "And besides I know he deceives poor Helen."
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    The continuous is important here, Ivan. It tells us that these are ongoing activities. They are occurring over a span of time, and they continue to occur at the moment of writing. The simple present is possible, but it isn't as clear or vivid in this paragraph.
     
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    Ivan_I

    Banned
    Russian
    I see. There is one thing I overlooked. I left out "Every week". It should have been

    "For instance, every week we are experiencing more and more problems with theft." Doesn't "every week" invite Present Simple?

    For example, here is a similar situation from another textbook.

    "I am having a great time here in England. My college term doesn't start until next month, so I am taking the opportunity to earn some money. I am staying with my English friend Robbie. His parents own a software business. In the evenings I drive into London with Robbie to go clubbing. I am making a lot of new friends. On weekdays I help Robbie's dad."

    What seems to be interesting for me in the second excerpt is that Present Simple is used with "In the evenings" and "On weekdays" even though it is obvious that a limited period of time is meant here. That is, "In the evenings" and "on weekdays" which are placed within his stay with Robbie and his stay is going to end.

    By saying that I am drawing an analogy with "For instance, every week we are experiencing more and more problems with theft."

    I was on the verge of making a conclusion that if there is something like "In the evenings", "On weekdays", "every week" it is more preferable to use Present Simple even though a temporal period of time is implied.

    For the record:
    the first fundamental difference between Present Continuous and Present Simple announced by English teachers and grammar books is that Present Continuous acts within such a period of time whose ending is foreseeable while Present Simple conveys actions happening within unlimited period of time (at least, the end of such a period is not to be implied).

    The problem with my examples is that we have a limited period of time within which actions are to be express by means of Present Continuous but as the second example shows Present Simple can be used also if it denotes repetitive actions within a limited period of time. And it is a bit complicated to determine when one should resort to using Present Simple.

    Sorry for so may words but I am trying to make it clear what really is the core of my frustration here.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    "Every week" is certainly possible with the continuous: We are losing more and more merchandise to theft every week.

    The simple present is often used to talk about habitual activities: I go to the movies once a week. (Common)

    The present continuous isn't as common when the idea of habit is expressed: I am going to the movies once a week, taking art classes, practicing tai chi... (Possible, but far less common) Somebody might use this answer for a question like "What are you doing down there in Florida/out there in California?"
     
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    Ivan_I

    Banned
    Russian
    OK. Let's come to some reasonable conclusion. The book says that the usage of Present Simple here is correct.

    "I am having a great time here in England. My college term doesn't start until next month, so I am taking the opportunity to earn some money. I am staying with my English friend Robbie. His parents own a software business. In the evenings I drive into London with Robbie to go clubbing. I am making a lot of new friends. On weekdays I help Robbie's dad."

    As far as I understand you are saying that we could switch it to Present Continuous.

    "I am having a great time here in England. My college term doesn't start until next month, so I am taking the opportunity to earn some money. I am staying with my English friend Robbie. His parents own a software business. In the evenings I am driving into London with Robbie to go clubbing. I am making a lot of new friends. On weekdays I am helping Robbie's dad."

    What difference do you see now?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I thought I gave you a reasonable answer in post #4. I don't see any reason for the present continuous in your latest sentences.

    The present continuous works well to express future time: Tomorrow night I'm driving into London. On Wednesday I'm helping Robbie's dad. = I plan to help Robbie's dad on Wednesday.

    The present continuous works in my example about theft because theft is occurring during each week that passes. In that sentence, I'm talking about an unfortunate, ongoing activity. I'm not trying to talk about something that I do as a matter of routine or habit.

    Remember that adverbial phrases like "on weekdays" may not be suitable for a sentence in the continuous. The simple present is far better in this sentence: On weekdays I help Robbie's dad. = I do this often/I usually do this. This is the tense that I recommend when you are talking about your routines or habits.

    "On weekdays I am helping Robbie's dad" -- This sounds like something you are planning to do in the future. It is confusing if you mean to say that you usually help Robbie's dad on weekdays. It's barely possible as a statement about something you usually do, but it's not clear.
     
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    Ivan_I

    Banned
    Russian
    OK, thank you, I mostly understand what you are saying but there are still some discrepancies which bother me.

    1) You say that "We are losing more and more merchandise to theft every week." is OK because "theft is occurring during each week that passes."

    My question. Wouldn't it be not so if there were Present Simple? "We lose more and more merchandise to theft every week."

    2) You have mentioned the notion of "habitual activities". Could you explain to me what exactly you imply? For example, if I am staying with Robbie for one month only and am going to go clubbing every Sunday which is not more often than 4 times. Are these 4 times of my going clubbing considered to be a habitual activity or not?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Both tenses are possible in the sentence about theft, Ivan. The continuous might be a little more vivid, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear it in the excited jabber of some manager who was worried about the theft. However, the simple present also sounds normal.

    You can use your personal judgement about the last question. You can use the simple present if you believe those four visits are something that you usually or customarily do. I probably wouldn't consider four planned trips to be a custom, though.
     

    Ivan_I

    Banned
    Russian
    I think we have spotted the real problem now.

    It's easy to see habitual activities when they occur on a regular basis.

    I go to the movies once a week. (easy)


    But when we are dealing with limited periods of time then it's hard to see whether it is habitual or not. You recommend that I judge about it on my own. But I need your advice as you are native. let's use our previous context to illustrate the problem.

    "I am having a great time here in England. My college term doesn't start until next month, so I am taking the opportunity to earn some money. I am staying with my English friend Robbie. We go to the movies once a week. or We are going to the movies once a week."
    We can see that the person is going to spend there not more than one month. What sounds better in your opinion in this context

    We go to the movies once a week.
    or
    We are going to the movies once a week.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I think you have the right idea, Ivan.

    You could use either tense, but I slightly prefer the continuous.

    If I was telling somebody about something that I haven't finished doing, I might say "So far, we've been going to the movies once a week." This means "We have been going to the movies, but I don't know what we will do next week or the week after." ("So far" = until now/until this time) (present perfect continuous)

    You could also use the present perfect in that sentence: So far, we've gone to the movies once a week.
     
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