Passengers complain / are always complaining

Bonggubi

Senior Member
Japanese
Topic question: Always + the present continuous tense vs the present tense? what's the difference?
Added by Cagey, moderator

Hi native English speakers and English high achievers!

My question is exactly the same as the title I put up there.

For example :

"Passengers are always complaining about the price"
"Passengers complain about the price"

At school, I have learned that 'the present tense' is used to describe something that happens regularly or constantly. Such as 'The sun rises in the east and sets in the west". I guess there's some kind of difference between the two sentences above but I can't pinpoint it. Or are they the same eventually?

Please clarify this one!
I would appreciate it.

:):):):)
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    To put it in the most general terms, the continuous or progressive aspect indicates that the action happens at the same time as something else relevant. Often in the present tense this "something else" is "while I am speaking or writing".

    Idiomatically, we additionally use the present continuous with adverbs like "constantly" or "always" to express dislike of someone's behaviour or of another action.

    I guess that the original implication is something like: She is always complaining about the weather when I am within earshot and am obliged to listen. (Here the complaining is literally happening at the same time as something else - the listening).
     
    Last edited:

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Both sentences could refer to things that happen regularly or often.

    Passengers always complain...

    Unless I suspect the speaker is exaggerating, I would take that literally: no passenger fails to complain.

    Passengers are always complaining...
    I would read that as "Passengers complain very often". "Always" is not usually taken literally when we are complaining about someone's habit of doing something annoying. The writer implies that the passengers are annoying because they complain a lot.

    (Edit: Agreeing with teddy, above)
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I agree, too. :)

    To me, version (2) with the simple present tense is a fairly neutral statement of fact, whereas (1) conveys a distinct undercurrent of irritation or annoyance, suggesting possibly that the complaints are unjustified.
     

    Bonggubi

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    To put it in the most general terms, the continuous or progressive aspect indicates that the action happens at the same time as something else relevant. Often in the present tense this "something else" is "while I am speaking or writing".

    Idiomatically, we additionally use the present continuous with adverbs like "constantly" or "always" to express dislike of someone's behaviour or of another action.

    I guess that the original implication is something like: She is always complaining about the weather when I am within earshot and am obliged to listen. (Here the complaining is literally happening at the same time as something else - the listening).
    Thanks!
    Come to think of it, I have learned something like you mentioned at school. but I forgot them all completely. But you helped me bring that memory!
    Thank you!
     

    Bonggubi

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Both sentences could refer to things that happen regularly or often.

    Passengers always complain...
    Unless I suspect the speaker is exaggerating, I would take that literally: no passenger fails to complain.

    Passengers are always complaining...
    I would read that as "Passengers complain very often". "Always" is not usually taken literally when we are complaining about someone's habit of doing something annoying. The writer implies that the passengers are annoying because they complain a lot.

    (Edit: Agreeing with teddy, above)
    Thank you!
    I think I have heard someone using 'always' or 'constantly' to describe their feelings of irritation. I may use it later in my life. haha
    Thanks for your comment!
     
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