What's the difference between :

It's 2018 already and I still use an iPhone 5S.

vs

It's 2018 already and I am still using an iPhone 5S.

Does the use of the word 'using' mean I am thinking of upgrading really soon, or is there any other significant difference?

  • 1
    The word using has no implication whatsoever with respect to thoughts of upgrading. However, the word still might have such implications in the context of your opening clause about 2018. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 9 at 15:38
up vote 2 down vote accepted

For me (a British English speaker), the first sentence:

It's 2018 already and I still use an iPhone 5S

doesn't sound quite right, when compared to the I am still using sentence. I believe this is because:

  • The simple present tense is used for activities which happen all the time, with no likelihood of stopping.
  • The implied meaning of this sentence is that my phone is so old I should upgrade, and I might very well upgrade soon.
  • Therefore there is a mismatch between the semantics of the simple present, and the pragmatics of the sentence.
  • This mismatch is enough to make the sentence sound slightly off, despite being grammatically well-formed.

I'd be interested to hear whether other British English speakers, and speakers of other varieties of English, agree with me.

  • 3
    I don't see how you get the implied meaning. "It's 2018 and I still use Photoshop CS4" is something I could very well say, but that doesn't mean I have any intention of updating. Just because something is not the latest version doesn't mean you should upgrade it. – Voo Oct 11 at 13:16
  • 2
    It's an interesting perspective, but I think your interpretation might be based on your personal opinion or dialect. I would think nothing of saying "I still use an iPhone 5" (although in context I'd be more likely to phrase it as "I have an iPhone 5"). While it certainly suggests I've thought about upgrading, it implies nothing about any intention to do so. – Andrew Oct 11 at 14:59
  • I agree. I have a new phone but I still use the old one (e.g. as a spare). I have a new phone but I am still using the old one (e.g. because its better). – user3070485 Oct 12 at 7:56

With the "It's 2018" clause, both mean more or less the same thing (as Neil says). But without that clause to clarify, the implication would be quite different.

I still use this phone would be something you say to emphasise the fact that generally-speaking, you still use the phone. If someone suggested you throw the phone away, for instance, you could say "I still use it", or if you wanted (as in your original example) to emphasise that despite it being old (or perhaps broken in some way) you still use it.

I'm still using this phone, on the other hand, more emphasises the fact that you are currently in the act of using the phone — not just that you use it from time to time. For instance, if someone has lent you their phone, and they ask for it back, you could say "I'm still using it" to indicate that you haven't yet finished with it, but you'll probably finish shortly.

  • 4
    I think both interpretations can be applied equally to both. – Strawberry Oct 9 at 16:37
  • 14
    I still use this phone isn't typically used when someone is trying to say I am in the middle of using it but I'm still using this phone is used in this context so I agree with @Muzer . – isaace Oct 9 at 21:49
  • In American English at least, the two are well understood to have distinct meanings and to not be interchangeable – Kyle Delaney Oct 10 at 0:58
  • 1
    @KyleDelaney - And British English. (If you mean without the introductory "It's 2018" clause. Muzer is spot-on that they're basically the same with that clause there, but very different without it.) – T.J. Crowder Oct 10 at 7:33
  • 2
    @Strawberry: Specifically for "using a phone", the two are very closely related because we consider "using" a phone to not necessitate active use of the phone, but rather have it on hand. However, the same does not apply to "I use this hammer/I am using this hammer". – Flater Oct 10 at 12:03

One is simple present tense while the other is present continuous.

Use simple present whenever you want to indicate something you do frequently.

Every friday, I go to the mall.

Use present continuous whenever you want to indicate something you do in this very moment.

See ya later, I am going to the mall.

In this case, you could use either, frankly. They both seem to imply that you're ready for an upgrade, but neither moreso than the other.

  • In common usage, I don't think simple present tense necessarily implies anything about frequency. For example, you could say "I only go to the mall once or twice a year". However, it does vaguely imply that the event will occur more than once (unlike present continuous, which refers to a single event that is currently ongoing). – DoctorDestructo Oct 11 at 0:13
  • @DoctorDestructo Perhaps frequency isn't the right word here but "regularly", which doesn't have to be frequent, but relatively frequent. – Neil Oct 11 at 6:13

As you may know, the simple present tense is used for natural, repeating, or habitual activities. The present continuous is used for current and ongoing activities, things that are in progress.

In this case, do you habitually use your phone every day? Or are you using it continuously? It's kind of the same thing, don't you think? It's just two slightly different perspectives of the same general activity.

So when talking about your 6-year old phone, it doesn't really matter which you say. Nor does it imply any special intention to replace the phone. Both are just statements of fact.

I expect this is the same with most other activities in a similar context, but you should be aware of the nuance in case it does make a difference:

As others have said, there's not a huge difference between the two, but there is a subtle distinction that could be drawn.

I still use could indicate that you still find a use for the old hardware. It's not necessarily that you only use the old hardware, just that you sometimes have occasion to use it. "I still use Windows 98 when I want to play old games".

I am still using could indicate that this is a more ongoing, even permanent, situation. It could imply that this is your primary or only smartphone.

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