Simple Present vs Present Progressive for a narrative text

Tenacious Learner

Senior Member
Spanish
Hi teachers,
This is part of a narrative text. What's the difference in these texts besides the tense? Can it be in both tenses (Simple Present and Present Progressive)?
The present progressive one is done like that because the students are learning the present progressive. There are pictures representing the actions too. But someone told me that for the sake of the narrative it should only be in the simple present and not in the progressive one and now I'm puzzled.

a) Peter climbs the ladder again with the three science fiction books under his arm. One of these science fiction books is interesting for him, so he reads part of it at the top of the ladder.

b) Peter is climbing the ladder again with the three science fiction books under his arm. One of these science fiction books is interesting for him, so he is reading part of it at the top of the ladder.

Thanks in advance.
 
  • Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hola, Think.

    Maybe that someone means that one can write, say, a whole short story in the Present Simple (which is one of the two narrative tenses of English, the other one being the Past Simple), whereas one would have a very, very hard time writing it using only the Present Progressive (which is not a narrative tense but rather a descriptive tense).

    GS :)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello TS,

    I'd strongly advise you not to tell stories using the present tense. As Giorgio has told you, it would have to be the simple present to work at all, but many people find the habit irritating and confusing.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The present tense is often used in simplified narrative. It has to be simplified, because there is only one tense and the sequence of actions can only be represented by placing them one after another as they happen.

    Illustrated textbooks, in particular simple ones for young children, often use the present continuous to describe what is happening in the picture (John is a farmer. John is riding his tractor. Here he is going to his field. Now he is ploughing the field, etc.).

    The present simple is regularly used in telling jokes. (An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman go into a pub. The Englishman drinks beer, the Irishman drinks stout and the Scotsman drinks whisky, etc.)

    The present simple is sometimes introduced during a normal past-tense narrative in order to create vividness, but this is a literary device learners ought to be aware of, rather than a normal practice they should follow.
     
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