I have learnt that present continuous with always expresses irritation, but, as native speakers told me it can also be expressed by present simple. Judging by the examples I have seen in my books, they were only about people. Can I use either present simple or continuous to express irritation caused by car, bus, or anyting else not just people?

  1. "The car is making a strange noise." "Oh, it always makes/is always making a noise like that."

  2. "They are always showing/they always show stupid comedies on this channel.

  3. "Their dog is always biting me/always bites me."

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    Present continuous with 'always' can express irritation - yes, it can be used of non-human subjects too. I think always does implies a literal meaning (the dog bites you every time it comes near you), while is always doing implies that it happens more frequently than you would like. Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 8:20
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    Present continuous with always can express irritation. Here's a counterexample: "I visited a tiny town in Mexico, where the days were long, and summers languid. The people were at ease and friendly, and there was always some saint's day or another, so work was never a pressing concern." Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 18:48

1 Answer 1


You can use always with present continuous in sentences that express your feelings about something (including annoyance)

This car is always breaking down.

That dog is always barking.

Both these sentences have a nuance of "it is irritating".

  • Is this nuance you are talking about more clearly expressed by present continuous rather than present simple? If always doing implies that it happens more often than a person expects, then, doesn't present continuous express it better? Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 8:14
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    This nuance is expressed by the continuous. In present simple "This car always breaks down" states a fact, but doesn't have the nuance of expressing feelings about the fact. The present continuous is more emotive, in this context.
    – James K
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 8:21
  • Then why do some native speakers say that irritation or anything else can be expressed by context or intonation but not by the aspect? And that present simple can express the same. Any tense can express irritation, annoyance etc not just present continuous as our textbooks teach us. What should learners do? Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 10:53
  • From usingenglish.com/article...ve-aspect.html 4. Andrea's always losing her keys. In [4], the use of always, normally associated by virtue of its meaning with the unmarked tense seems at first illogical. However, as we have seen [...] the use of the durative aspect with short actions can stress the repetition of that action. The combination of always and the durative action tells us that this is a situation that actualises repeatedly but, because the duration of the whole series of losing is limited, it is not presented as a permanent state of affairs. Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 10:57
  • This combination is associated by some writers with some idea of the speaker's emotional attitude, but this will be made explicit not just by the aspect, but by the whole context of situation. It is not true to suggest, as some do, that it always expresses the speaker's irritation. It can just as easily express pleasure: ……4a. William is so sweet. He's always buying me flowers and chocolates Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 10:57

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