Should I use the present simple tense or the present progressive tense to talk about my hobby?

  • I collect stamps
  • I am collecting stamps

Why is one form preferred over the other? And does it depend on the kind of thing I collect or am collecting for that matter?

  • @Jacinto I've had a look at the page you suggested and it doesn't pertain to my question. Look a this: [link]books.google.ru/… She says she started ages ago and still her choice is the Continuous.
    – Харбин Хэйлунцзян
    Oct 5, 2016 at 9:24
  • 1
    But that's a different speaker and 2 different constructions. "I've been collecting" is the present progressive perfect. In "I started collecting", collecting is a gerund; the construction as "I started skydiving when I was a teenager."
    – miltonaut
    Oct 5, 2016 at 12:34
  • @miltonout You're missing something. S says "I'm collecting stamps" Then R asks Really? Since when have you been collecting stamps? Oct 5, 2016 at 13:19
  • What am I missing? In the present perfect simple/continuous aspects (which R uses), an action started in the past, possibly has been completed, might not be in progress right this minute, but may continue in the future. "I have driven this route before."/"I have been driving this route since I got this job." Neither of those is the same as "I drive this route" (a habit) or "I am driving this route (current action or future plan).
    – miltonaut
    Oct 6, 2016 at 12:40

1 Answer 1


As usual with languages, the answer is not 100% black or white, but present simple is the preferred tense to write of an habitual action.

"I collect stamps" conveys roughly the same meaning as "I'm a stamp collector". It describes an established activity. Whether that activity has been going on for long is not the point, as long as it is now an established habit in the mind of the writer. E.g. "Until yesterday, I used to have a job. Now, I collect stamps".

Consider now the progressive tenses: "What have you been doing this summer?" "I've been collecting stamps". "Do you want to go out now?" "Later perhaps, now I'm collecting stamps".

In these cases, the verb describes an ongoing activity. But it goes no further than describing what's happening, has happened, or will happen at a certain point in time. It certainly does not convey the idea of an usual or established activity.

  • This is exactly the reason why I'm asking the question. It looks like they say "I'm collecting" to talk of an established activity: <books.google.ru/…>
    – Харбин Хэйлунцзян
    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:14
  • From your excerpt, it's hard to tell if it's an established activity or something more permanent. In English, the present simple (ex.: I collect) is used for habitual activity, and the present continuous (ex. I am collecting) is used for an activity that is currently happening or is only temporary (ex. I'm collecting stamps for a school project. It's boring and I'm going to quit when I finish my project.).
    – miltonaut
    Oct 5, 2016 at 12:31

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