we are not using the present continuous to signify a custom or practice

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machadinho

Senior Member
Português do Brasil
There is an analogy that has encouraged the revival of the term "intuition" in these connections. This is its use in linguistics [...] to refer to a speaker’s spontaneous grasp of what can and cannot be said in his language, or of what can be correctly said in a particular kind of situation. A competent English speaker has the intuition that it is not correct — that is, it is not English — to say (as I once heard an emigré philosopher of language say), "In English we are not using the present continuous to signify a custom or practice." Such intuitions are the raw material of a theory of a natural language. (Williams. Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, p. 105)
Okay. I don't feel the emigré philosopher's was the best word choice available but what exactly is grammatically wrong with his sentence? I would probably have said something along the following lines: In English we don't use the present continuous in connection with customs or practices but I fail to see why his phrasing is "not correct, that is, it is not English". Is it because the emigré used a custom instead of any custom?
 
  • RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    "In English we are not using the present continuous to signify a custom or practice."

    The problem is that in saying that, he was using the present continuous to signify a custom or practice.
     

    machadinho

    Senior Member
    Português do Brasil
    Yeah, a (deliberate?) performative contradiction, but that doesn't make it grammatically wrong to native English speakers' ears, does it?
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    Yes, it's grammatically wrong because, as you might have read somewhere, we don't use the present continuous to signify a custom or practice.
     

    machadinho

    Senior Member
    Português do Brasil
    Using the present continuous to signify a custom or practice is not a grammatical mistake.
     
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