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Is there any difference in meaning between lately I meet and lately I have been meeting? I would've thought that lately is used with the Present Perfect Continuous, but in the 23rd episode of the 8th season of Friends, Phoebe used it with the Present Simple. Here is the context:

Phoebe: Ooh, this is it! (Looks in the window.) Oh, that’s him! That’s him!

Joey: Great! Go get him.

Phoebe: Wait a second, or maybe you can go in first.

Joey: (looks in the window) He’s not really my type.

Phoebe: No not you, Dr. Drake Remoray. You can ask him questions and see what’s he like. People tell doctors everything.

Joey: But you said he was this great guy!

Phoebe: But lately all the guys I meet seem really nice at first, then they turn out to be the biggest jerks.

Would the meaning change somehow if she would say lately all the guys I have been meeting... or lately all the guys I am meeting...?

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  • The original is fine. It would be equally idiomatic for Phoebe to say lately all the guys I have been meeting [turn out to be jerks], but I have to say that although it's "valid", your all the guys I am meeting smacks of "Indian English" to me. Jun 29, 2020 at 12:30
  • Phoebe meets guys as part of her way of life (like she eats dinner, or watches movies). The word lately divides those guys into two "classes"; 1: those she met quite a long time ago, and 2: all the rest - including anyone she's meeting now, or will meet in the foreseeable future, as well as those she met recently / lately. If it was important to clarify whether that second category included present and/or future meetings, you'd need to use a lot more words to make that distinction - it wouldn't just turn on the choice between meet / am meeting / have been meeting. Jun 29, 2020 at 13:09
  • Thank you for clearifying that! Let me get this right. So what you are saying is that "lately I meet", "lately I am meeting" and "lately I have been meeting" mean the same, right? Jun 29, 2020 at 13:20
  • In your exact context, yes - they mean the same. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're "equivalent", since as pointed out above, the continuous present has noticeable (to me, at least) connotations with IE (or other "non-native Anglophone"). Jun 29, 2020 at 13:27

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Both the example and your suggested alternative refer to an observed trend (nice at first, then turn out to be jerks) in a set of people (some guys). The change in tense affects the scope of the guys.

"all the guys I have been meeting..." would refer to a limited number of guys that you have repeatedly met.

"all the guys I meet..." suggests that you have been meeting guys and continue to meet new ones. In your example, this suggests that the trend observed so far may also continue to be true.

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    No, but it's unlikely I would actually "disagree" with Astralbee, so my guess is you've misunderstood exactly what was meant. The distinction made between Present Perfect and Simple Present in the above answer is extremely fine (it probably wouldn't occur to many native speakers to think of that distinction independently, but I'm guessing most would probably agree if it was suggested to them). What's going on there is just that the Perfect form draws attention to "relevance to time of utterance", so the scope is more restricted to recent past (implying less time to meet guys). Mar 25, 2021 at 18:35
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    ...in which context, if there's less time to meet them, there will be "less guys". But to conclude from this that using the Perfect there somehow "means" seeing the same limited number of guys repeatedly is probably a stretch too far. Anyway, it would be nothing to do with the "meaning" of the Perfect form itself - just a possible reason why the speaker might want to use a verb form that inherently focuses more on the recent past, where the Simple Present might be taken to imply always, all my life, with all the guys I've ever met. Mar 25, 2021 at 18:38
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    Using #1 Present Perfect Continuous (all the guys I have been meeting) focuses more on those she's met lately, whereas #2 Simple Present (meet) in such contexts tends to rope in every guy she ever met or will meet. Inevitably that implies fewer guys in case #1 because it covers a more restricted timeframe. Maybe the actual "number of guys" is even further reduced because she sees each of them more often / repeatedly, I don't know. Frankly, I think you're trying to wring more "precision" out of the words that is justified. Mar 27, 2021 at 15:18
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    It's quite reasonable to contrast #1 all the guys I have been meeting with #3 all the guys I have met and say that on average, #1 more strongly implies meeting each individual guy more often than #3. But this is only an implication anyway, and not really something worth "learning" if it doesn't immediately strike you as something that makes sense (and therefore doesn't really need to be remembered / learned). Mar 27, 2021 at 15:21
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    Generally speaking, it would make no difference at all which verb form Phoebe in OP's context used for all the guys I meet / have been meeting / have met lately. Your problem seems to be that you think English is far more "precise" than it actuially is. There's next to nothing to learn here apart from some very basic points. Present Perfect implies greater relevance to "time of utterance" than Simple Past, and the Continuous participle calls attention to something being a process rather than a completed act. That's probably all the average native speaker knows or cares about. Mar 27, 2021 at 17:30

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