1. Over time students tend to be better at their skills.
  2. Over time students tend to become better at their skills.

Which is correct? Can we use present continues?

  1. Over time students are tending to be better at their skills.
  2. Over time students are tending to become better at their skills.

"Tend to" is similar to other compound verbs (like "go to eat" or "open to receive"). The form is tend + (verb infinitive).:

They tend to play outdoors.

He tends to make outrageous comments.

She tends to walk into people because she's busy texting.

and so on.

Tending is not as often used, possibly because "tend" by itself already indicates a trend. If you look up the use of "tending" you'll far more often find its other definition as the gerund form meaning "to give your attention to and take care of". It's more natural to simply say "tend to become" rather than "tending to become".

"Tend to be better" makes sense, but it's not a natural expression. "Tend to improve" is the more common way to say this, along with similar phrases (tend to progress, tend to increase, etc.). Examples:

Over time, their performance on proficiency tests tends to improve.

Over the past few weeks, the trainees have tended to improve their hand-eye coordination.

Last month the unemployment rate tended to increase, but this month it's been flat.


The versions with "become" are both grammatically correct and both can be used in either the present or the present continuous. This is only due to the temporal adverb 'over time' though, because that gives the nuance in meaning of something changing as time is progressing. They shouldn't have question marks at the end though.

Sentence 1 in both cases makes no sense in this context, although it should be noted (as it has been by others) that in most cases "tend to be" would be more common.

  • Sorry. My mistake. – SovereignSun Dec 8 '16 at 14:51
  • Why cannot it be "be"? – SovereignSun Dec 8 '16 at 14:52
  • Because "over time" suggests that something is changing as time goes on, which matches up with the meaning of "become", whereas "be" suggests a fixed state. Compare "Over the last year I have become better at tennis" and ungrammatical *"Over the last year I have been better at tennis". – D. Nelson Dec 8 '16 at 15:01
  • I don't agree with this answer. "Tending to become" is marginally correct, perhaps, but it's poor English. And "tend to be better" makes perfect sense, but is not idiomatic. The idiomatic way to say this is "tend to improve", even if that means the same thing. – Andrew Dec 8 '16 at 17:34
  • @Andrew 'tend to be better' can make sense in context (not that I ever said it couldn't as you're insinuating) but not in combination with 'over time'. And there's nothing idiomatic whatsoever about 'tending to improve', the meaning is just sum of those three words. Although I disagree with your disagreement, at least you had the decency to explain your -1 vote unlike most people. – D. Nelson Dec 8 '16 at 17:45

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