This passage is from Macmillan English Grammar in Context by Michael Vince.

"Every year thousands of children go to the doctor because of back pain and in fact this kind if problem is rapidly becoming one of the most common childhood complaints. And what exactly is causing (or causes) this outbreak of back strain and muscle fatigue? Most people are simply not realising (or simply don't realise) what is happening to their children.

I think both "cause" and "is causing", "don't realise", and "are not realising" are correct since the book says the progressive is used to express a trend.

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    Could you tell us which level of the grammar series the example is taken from? – Apollyon Sep 20 '20 at 12:12
  • It is from Advanced. – Antonia A Sep 20 '20 at 14:08
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    My instinct would be to use is causing and don't realise, but I can't really give a logical explanation. – Kate Bunting Sep 20 '20 at 15:21

I agree with the comment. The better choices are "is causing", because it refers to a recent change looked at as a progression, and "don't realize", since realization is a threshold question here (they do or do not realize).

They're both grammatical, but the meaning fits better with "causing" and "realize".

You could say "people are realizing" to refer to gradual change of opinion within a group of people, when, one-by-one, they change opinion suddenly, but nothing is gained in that passage by looking at realization as a progression.

(I used the American spelling of "realise".)

  • I was confused by the book. It doesn't give detailed explanations. Another confusing sentence was with "I am hoping" and "I hope", "I expect", and "I am expecting". Is there any difference in meaning between them? The book suggests that the progressive is less definite in this case. But I don't understand what it means . – Antonia A Sep 20 '20 at 18:53
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    I don't see much difference in the meaning of those forms, but there's no context with such short phrases. – Jack O'Flaherty Sep 20 '20 at 23:07
  • This is also from English Grammar in Context by Michael Vince. "They are still examining the wreckage of the high speed train. They don't believe the accident involves driver error. We expect to publish an inquiry into this accident quite soon", a spokesman announced yesterday." – Antonia A Sep 21 '20 at 11:17
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    In the case of "we are still examining", you'd have to use the progressive, because the the word "still" shows it's an ongoing process. In the cases of "expecting", and "hoping" the progressive sounds less definite, even tentative. – Jack O'Flaherty Sep 21 '20 at 13:53
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    To me it's a shade of meaning for those two words. There's a semantic difference between "expect" and "hope" that is stronger than any difference between progressive and simple present. May I suggest looking at samples of usage, at Google books, maybe using Google ngram viewer? – Jack O'Flaherty Sep 21 '20 at 15:27

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