I am doing grammar tests and came across the following:

My brother (do) a degree at university so I (see) him very often, unfortunately.

The aim of the test is to fill each gap with the verb either in present simple or in present continuous tense. I fill it up like this:

My brother is doing a degree at university so I am not seeing him very often. unfortunately.

Unfortunately, I filled it up like this, because I thought that it is a temporary situation. But the answer is this:

My brother is doing a degree at university so I don't see him very often, unfortunately.

So the question is: Why do we use the present simple, rather then a present continuous in the second part of the sentence?

  • I beg to differ about "never do a degree", @P.E.Dant. Perhaps it sounds a bit colloquial but it should be possible. Macmillan Dictionary has this example: She’s doing a degree at Exeter University. Or maybe it's only possible in British English? I'm not sure. Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 21:52
  • @DamkerngT. Well, I stand corrected. It does sound a British usage now you mention it, though I've never heard in my travels and among Brit friends who have, apparently, done degrees! The Macmillan entry is indisputable. Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 22:11
  • 2
    In the second usage, don't is best. We use the present continuous to talk about something that is taking place as we speak. You might say, for instance, of a friend for whom you're waiting but who hasn't shown up: "I am not seeing him anywhere." Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 22:13

2 Answers 2


The simple present is generally for actions or events that you do, or often do, or for discrete events that you repeat over time. The present progressive is generally for actions or events that are going on right now.

For clarity, let's replace "to see" with "to visit" because that's the implied meaning in this context. Right now, as you write, you aren't in the process of visiting your brother. You simply visit him from time to time. So the simple present tense is sufficient. However, your brother is in the process of doing his degree. When talking about your brother's situation, the present progressive is appropriate.

This is why the correct answer has "mixed" tenses, because you essentially have two different but connected sentences, each with its own subject and verb.

Other examples of mixed tenses:

My mother is cleaning the house, so I can't play video games.

His roommate is studying for exams, but Bill still has to practice his drumming.

The opposition is saying terrible things, but the candidate still fights on until election day.

  • You ignored the fact that SEE is a special verb. 'I am seeing Jane' doesn't mean what 'I see Jane' means. "Why do people see each other" can't convey "Why do people date?"
    – user1425
    Commented Aug 5, 2023 at 8:58

My English teacher would probably say that:

  • see -> look
  • be seeing someone -> dating someone

but also check that https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/5904/in-which-cases-would-you-say-i-am-seeing-instead-of-i-see

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