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If I want to know if someone is being harassed by someone else, should I ask:

"does he harass you?"

or

"is he harassing you?"

I think they mean the same thing, but "does he harass you" puts the focus on the fact and "is he harassing you" puts the focus on frequency, but I am wondering if "is he harassing you" means I suspect the person is being harassed, whereas if I ask "does he harass you" I have no suspicion and the question sounds more neutral?

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Your reasoning is wrong:

Does he harass you? asks whether he is in the habit of harassing you.

Is he harassing you? asks whether his current behaviour amounts to harassment.

It's like asking:

Do you swim?

which means do you enjoy swimming / do you go swimming, and:

Are you swimming

which asks whether you are swimming now or possibly later today.

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  • "current" can also mean "belonging to the present time" like this month or this year, not just happening at this moment. –
    – anouk
    Nov 24 '20 at 7:30
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For a verb like "harass", the continuous form "be harassing" indicates a current but temporary condition. It refers to an act that is currently happening.

The simple present tense refers to a general fact. Something that might not be happening right now but does happen often.

So if you see a man who is making his female employee feel uncomfortable you could say "Is he harassing you?". But later you could ask "Does he harass you (everyday)?"

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  • I meant "is he harassing you" in the sense of "has he been harassing you recently", so not necessarily at this moment, but recently. – anouk 1 min ago Edit
    – anouk
    Nov 23 '20 at 18:48
  • "Is he harassing you" means "at the moment" If you want to talk about a past you could use "was he harassing you"
    – James K
    Nov 23 '20 at 19:50
  • "current" can also mean "belonging to the present time" like this month or this year, not just happening at this moment.
    – anouk
    Nov 24 '20 at 7:28

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