The rise of the continuous present

Article Category: Blog, Everyday talk

writing fiction

Once upon a time, American English distinguished between the simple present (I feel) and the continuous present (I am feeling). That distinction is disappearing. The American vernacular more and more uses the continuous present for sentences that used to use the present perfect, as in:

I am wanting to find out about tomorrow’s workshop.

(Instead of “I want to find out about tomorrow’s workshop.”)

Are you seeing the mess they left in this room?

(Instead of “Do you see the mess they left in this room?”)

I’m liking the green carpet better.

(Instead of “I like the green carpet better.”)

For about ten years, I was living in Atlanta.

(Instead of “For about ten years, I lived in Atlanta.”)

I don’t know why this change is happening, but as a language and culture instructor, I’m finding (instead of “I find”) that I have no choice but to teach it. I don’t teach English the way I think it should be or according to some ideal standard. I teach you how Americans actually talk. As American linguistic patterns change, so do my lessons.

English grammar books make a point of telling you when it’s appropriate to use the simple present and when to use the present continuous, but the two are becoming more interchangeable.

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