I teach English

It happens periodically, time to time, every monday and so on. Present SImple

I am teachining English

1) It is happening right now, I am in the class 2) It's a current period of time when I am doing it.

But even if it's a period of time, anyway it happens time to time, periodically.

I may be 97 and I say:

I teach English

I consider this action like a repeating over and over one

I can also say:

I am teaching English

having meant all my life I've been doing it like one huge period.

What's the difference then of their usages?


2 Answers 2


It depends so much on the verb and the context. For example studying is heavily used for general statements when it's transitive - a student might say "I'm studying English" because that's a subject they're taking at university, even when they've not done any active studying for weeks. Similarly, "I'm sleeping about 8 hours a night" is habitual or general.

The idea that "doing it now" is necessary for the present progressive (and "doing it then" for the past progressive or past perfect progressive), while the present simple is for habitual actions, is one of the most confusion-laden simplifications used when teaching English. It's probably worse than the spelling generalisation "i before e, except after c", which is, I believe, at least true most of the time when you factor in how often each word is used.

"I'm living in Japan at the moment."
"Oh? What are you doing there?"
"I'm Teaching English."

You're not teaching English right at the moment, but it's what you're doing in Japan - your occupation there, or perhaps your apparent reason for being there.

"Gosh, you look tired. Are you okay?"
"I'm not sleeping well at the moment."

Even with the qualification at the moment, this doesn't mean right now, it means in general, recently.

"What do you do with your free time?"
"Oh, I'm writing a book."

Nothing to do with what you're doing right then.

Now, for the first, you could say "I teach English", and it would be fine. In that case, there's no real difference between the two. But you would be causing some confusion by saying "I don't sleep well at the moment", even though everyone would understand the meaning fine, because it's an unusual phrasing (less unusual in some dialects), and without a qualifier like recently or at the moment it would be taken as a much more general, long-term thing. "I'm not sleeping well" would be taken to be short-term without that qualification. Answering a question about hobbies and pass-times with "I write" would be okay, but "I write a book" would be jarring and utterly unnatural.

The difference between the two depends on the context and the verb (and possibly the subject and object).

  • About Japan: What if I've been there already for 80 years. It's become a habit for me to use 'I teach English" or it's been still able to be considered like a process though a very long one? About the book: If I say "I write a book" I can mean that my writing moments repeat over and over again. Like, I consider the every day two hour moments of writing like a habit which has been happening for 20 years. But the book can be still the same, it's just extremely long. I write books - means like book by book, but "I write a book" not books by books but hours of writing by hours of writing. No? Mar 10, 2019 at 12:42
  • "I write a book" is not a phrase you're going to hear very often. Not never, but only in relatively unusual situation. It won't be referring to habit, but to a specific action. It's important to understand that the progressive is about processes, but don't let that make you think that everything that's in-process should be progressive, and anything that isn't shouldn't be. You end up tying yourself in knots trying to figure out how things work. Usually you can, but it takes mental gymnastics. Just try to get more experience with English and then you'll gradually get it instinctively.
    – SamBC
    Mar 10, 2019 at 12:47

The two are pretty similar but they have slight differences.

“I teach English” means that I teach currently teach English in general. I am not necessarily teaching English right this moment, but I teach it periodically.

“I am teaching English” generally means that I am teaching English right now, but I could also be teaching it periodically. However, if someone asked me “What subject do you teach?” I might still respond with “I’m teaching English”, so the two are pretty much interchangeable.

Hopefully that made sense.

  • But Continous were for actions happening only right now - now problem. But I can be sleeping right now but at this period of time I am teaching somebody English. So, it might be not right now but at this period of time. But this period of time can be either for 2 weeks or for 30 years. Well, it's just a big period. But the same - I go to the class every monday and teach English 9Present SImple). Or I am going to the class every monday and teachng English (during this period of time). The physical situation is the same. Just either to seee it like a habit or like a period... Mar 10, 2019 at 9:25

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