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Both the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL) by Pullum and Oxford Modern English Grammar (OMEG) by Aarts clearly say that the progressive futurate (i.e., the present progressive indicating a future event as in I'm leaving next week) does not have an aspectual meaning to it.

OMEG on page 270 says:

It is important to be aware of the fact that [the progressive futurate] is not aspectual, that is, the situation is not regarded as unfolding over time.

What exactly does this mean?

  • I'm not so sure about that. There is a semantic difference between "We leave at 6:30 sharp" and "We're leaving at 6:30 sharp". – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 18 '17 at 11:05
  • It's pretty clear what they mean. I'm leaving next week means I will leave pretty much for sure next week, and it is not like: I was leaving while they were having lunch. – Lambie Dec 20 '19 at 19:16
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I believe it means that it has meaning that is closer to that of the simple aspect than the progressive aspect - it is making a general statement, rather than referring to something unfolding. When the progressive aspect is used in the present, like we're leaving, it means there is some process or action actually happening. When it is used in the present to refer to the future, like we're leaving in the morning, it has the sort of meaning more associated with the simple aspect, as it is synonymous with the future simple - we will leave in the morning.

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I was cooking yesterday (when Mary came over).

Progressive past. Mary came over while I was in the middle of cooking. I started cooking, then Mary came over, then I completed cooking.

I cooked yesterday (when Mary came over).

Simple past. Mary came over probably sometime in the same day I was cooking. It's entirely possible the sequence of events that happened was the same as past progressive, but I'm choosing not to communicate that.

I am cooking tomorrow (when Mary is coming over)

I will be cooking tomorrow (when Mary will be coming over).

Here, the when Y doesn't have the effect of "I started X, then Y happened, then I finished X". If you really want to say that Mary will drop by after you started cooking, you have to be explicit with that.

I am starting to cook tomorrow after Mary comes over.

  • Your fourth example is not the progressive futurate, is it? Also, in your third example, why would you use the progressive in the when-clause? Isn't I am cooking tomorrow when Mary comes over more natural? – JK2 Dec 21 '19 at 2:16

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