What is the difference between the following sentences?

  1. He is always shooting his mouth off about how good he is. (present continuous)
  2. He always shoots his mouth off about how good he is. (simple present)

In texts they usually use number 1, but I do not see a difference in meaning.

3 Answers 3


There is no practical difference in meaning, and both "sound correct" and would be understood. A similar phrase, "He is always running his mouth about..." / "He always runs his mouth about..." is probably more commonly used.

Just remember to conjugate your verbs -- "He always shoots off his mouth."


There is a difference between the two. The simple present is a statement of fact, devoid of any implicit opinion about that fact. On the other hand, the continuous form, particularly in combination here with the adjunct always implies a negative opinion about the fact.

Aarts in Oxford Modern English Grammar (p269) calls this the "progressive of irritation". He gives the following example:

She's always poking her damn nose in, isn't she?

and explains:

The sense of irritation comes about through a combination of discourse context, the verbal meaning, [...], and the presence of adjuncts like always, forever, continually.

As a further example, consider the two sentences:

I always lose my keys.

I'm always losing my keys.

The first is a statement of fact and would typically be followed by some kind of contextualization:

I always lose my keys when I forget to hang them up as soon as I get in.

The second can stand by itself, and implies a mild irritation about the repeated event.

  • I think there's much good in this answer, but there are a few problems. First, it's not completely clear if the OP is asking about differences in meanings given by the two tenses in general (the question title suggests this), or only for the example. The explanation doesn't apply to He always smiles/is smiling for example. Finally, it's hard to see He always shoots his mouth off . . .. as being devoid of any implicit opinion. Nor would be something like She eats like a pig. Apr 25, 2018 at 9:45

I would add to the other answer, and say that "He always shoots his mouth off..." Might be more appropriate if you are discussing the act, while "He is always shooting his mouth off..." might be more at home in a conversation about 'him'

Generally speaking though, they should be interchangeable in almost all circumstances

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