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A: Why don't you just focus on making the best of it for yourself as well as for your children?

B: Maybe that's what I'm trying to do.

A: But then why do you only see / are you only seeing them a couple of times a month?

  • Would you see this as a fixed thing and use simple present, or see it as a temporary situation and use the present continuous?

  • Would native speakers care about which one to use in examples like this?

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    I would regard both as idiomatic. Mar 14, 2022 at 17:45
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    To the final question: no. Mar 14, 2022 at 18:47

3 Answers 3

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There is a difference between the use of the simple present and present continuous. Generally, we use the simple present when talking about facts, or things that we do habitually, rather than actions that are currently happening/ongoing. We use the present continuous for the latter.

However, in the context of your sentence, the end of the sentence which reads "a couple of times a month" already implies that this is a habitual thing. Therefore you could use either of these constructions in this particular example. I think the difference, if there is one, is very subtle. I'm a native English speaker and see no problems with either of these. The context is really important here.

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As is the case with much of English usage, the correctness of these examples is highly dependent upon the context in which they are used.

Compare:

A: Why don't you just focus on making the best of it for yourself as well as for your children?
B: Maybe that's what I'm trying to do.
A: But then why do you only see them a couple of times a month?

with:

A: Why aren't you just focusing on making the best of it for yourself as well as for your children?
B: Maybe that's what I am doing.
A: But then why are you only seeing them a couple of times a month?

Notice that in each case the first two lines both use either "do" or "are".
So the third line most naturally uses the same verb.

But, as others have said, most people wouldn't notice the difference and only a pedant or a poet would care.

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I think most native speakers would use the simple present ("do you only see") in this instance, though few would notice if you used the present progressive instead.

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