I've read the BBC English grammar challenge and faced with the following sentence:

But don't forget, when people are speaking, they often shorten words like is or has, so they sound like this: [...]

I don't understand why we use Present Continuous tense instead of Present Simple tense? I think that people speak in general point, but not in the current moment. Where is my reasoning wrong?

  • 2
    Present tense (when people speak) would be just as acceptable. – 200_success Jun 29 '14 at 6:04
  • @200_success Whether a present simple tense distorts a point of the sentence? – Dmitrii Bundin Jun 29 '14 at 6:08
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    @DmitryFucintv: No, the meaning remains the same. The difference is very minor and subtle. Simple present: "when people speak" = "on those occasions when they speak", versus "when people are speaking" = "during the action of speaking". This nuance makes no difference to what is conveyed in this context. – Tim Pederick Jun 29 '14 at 11:18

When is a relative adverb in this sentence. we can use "when" to say something happens at the same time when we are doing something else.

But don't forget, when people are speaking, they often shorten words like is or has.

Definition :

2.b. When doing something: She was often nervous when facing the camera.

Macmillan Dictionary

To me present progressive form fits better in this sentence because it implies speaking duration a bit better than the simple present form.

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  • I do not think you are answering the OP's question here. OP is specifically asking about the difference - if any - between present simple and "present continuous" in a particular context. – None Jun 29 '14 at 10:16

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