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Here are two examples from the news:

  1. In July exports of goods continued to decline
  2. Pregnant women continuing to drink alcohol despite warnings from medical experts

Whats the difference between using "continued to" and "continuing" in terms of time/tense?

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    I think this is Too Basic even for ELL. OP's first example is a normal sentence. The second one is just a noun phrase with no functional verb. Sep 10 '13 at 17:07
  • I suppose it's possible that this question could give rise to a canonical answer expounding on the function of gerunds and/or differentiating present progressive and simple past in fine detail. The question could definitely be improved with a little more detail on the specific nature of the confusion (assuming that it is, in fact, a bigger issue than a search for “continued tense” could solve). Sep 10 '13 at 17:26
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    @snailboat: Granted it's possible to see #2 as "normal" in the context of a newspaper headline. But following OP's edit it's clear that wasn't his intention. Personally I think the original question should remain closed (with existing perfectly adequate answers), and OP should post the rephrased version as a new question. I'll raise the issue on meta. Sep 11 '13 at 14:35
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    Hi Arun, welcome to ELL! Your edit was a good one, and I appreciate the effort. However it does fundamentally change this question, which already has answers. I've rolled this question back to the revision which corresponds with these answers, but you're more than welcome to post a new question which asks what you really wanted to know. Then that question can get the answers you want! You can find the text you typed up for the edit in this question's revision history. Thanks!
    – WendiKidd
    Sep 11 '13 at 17:53
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    @snailboat: In truth, I hadn't registered the "headlinese" interpretation of OP's example #2 when I made my first comment. I may be wrong, but I'd have thought the grammar of most if not all languages is considerably relaxed in the context of newspaper headlines, billboards, etc. They're trying to catch your attention, not teach you grammar. Sep 12 '13 at 15:57
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The second example looks like it comes from the headline of a newspaper article rather than from the body.

Newspaper headlines use a very abbreviated style intenteded to convey maximum information with a minimum number of words. They don't necessarily follow the rules for ordinary prose. In this case, I think Howard's answer gives the correct interpretation. They've omitted the "are" from

Pregnant women are continuing to drink alcohol despite warnings

Some of the common conventions of newspaper headline writing are covered here.

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  • good point re news +1 vote from me :)) News, tech, and, most notoriously, business English tend to mangle the language... "News writers drinking on the job finding cigarette breaks short." (ouch cliche :-P ) Sep 10 '13 at 22:15
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As the first two comments mention, the question is too broad in scope. But some clarifications and variations might continue to help. :))

1.

  • In July exports declined. [Simple, direct - but changes the meaning as it's up to the reader to know if the decline continued from before.]

These are progressively worse for many reasons:

  • In July exports continued declining. [a bit sloppy]
  • In July exports continued their decline. [their is redundant]
  • Continuing their decline, exports went down again in July. [verbose]

2.

  • Pregnant women continuing to drink alcohol despite warnings from medical experts ... [incomplete sentence fragment]

Since that's a fragment, we can only guess what the rest might need. So the meaning changes depending:

  • Pregnant women, who continue drinking alcohol despite warnings from medical experts, are at higher risk for (whatever). [Clean, clear]

  • Pregnant women are continuing to drink alcohol despite warnings from medical experts. [Progressive form. In the present, still 'happening'. Every pregnant women is drinking during pregnancy - we have a public health crisis!]

  • Pregnant women have continued to drink alcohol despite warnings from medical experts. [Present, statement of fact - it's still a problem, but using Present over Progressive makes it feel more formal, less immediate. This is subtle. I think 'continued drinking' would also be common.]

So in summary, let's rephrase the two example sentences you gave.

In July exports of goods continued to decline.

Becomes:

In July exports of goods were still on the decline.

[The were, and still are, declining. They continue the previous decline.]

Pregnant women continuing to drink alcohol despite warnings ...

Let's say a reasonable guess is ...

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy causes problems. If you don't listen to the warnings, then ...

Pregnant women continuing to drink alcohol despite warnings need to have their heads examined.

" women continuing to drink alcohol despite warnings" is a noun phrase, which shortens to: "They need to have their heads examined."

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