I've come across a grammar task for English Exam preparation. There goes a text:

A survey by the Japan Agency for Science and Technology shows that Arctic ice is melting (Present Continuous is used to stress changes happening around now, as far as I understand) at a far quicker rate than anticipated.

... Now there is also less sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. It happens because ice ___________ (FLOAT) into the Atlantic Ocean.

Can I use Present Continuous in that gap to show that the state of floating ice is not typical for the region so I could imply the changes happening around now? Or is it better to use Present Simple to imply that the fact is true in general?

  • 1
    You understand the difference quite clearly -- the problem is that there's not enough context here to decide which set of facts the author wants to emphasize. Either form could be relevant. That makes this a bad exam question May 19, 2019 at 11:45

1 Answer 1


Because it is describing the current, ongoing movement or activity of the ice, I would say it's more natural to say

... Now there is also less sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. It happens because ice is floating into the Atlantic Ocean.

You'd only use floats (simple present tense) in this context to express general truths, repeated actions or unchanging situations. e.g. ice floats on water is true anytime, anywhere.

In the context of arctic ice, it not necessarily a given that arctic ice must float into the Atlantic Ocean. Seasonal or even cyclical weather phenomena (e.g. El Niño or La Niña) could possibly affect this and they could just stay put in the Arctic for example.

  • Thank you a lot! I suggested Present Simple because it is given as a correct answer along with Present Perfect. May 19, 2019 at 14:14
  • You're most welcome!
    – chatnoir
    May 19, 2019 at 14:15

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