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Is this sentence correct?

My niece is pretending to have been playing the piano for a whole hour.

With this sentence I want to describe a situation when a girl is pretending at the moment of my stating the fact and at the same time I'd like to mention the duration too.

If to divide the sentence into two smaller parts, then we get "She is pretending" and "She has been playing the piano for a whole hour." In such a case the choice of the tense seems to be pretty logical, because there's a time indication ( for a whole hour), so the present perfect continuous tense form fits. However, I'm not all together sure whether I can combine these two parts into a sentence the way I wrote above. And something tells me that I should change "is pretending" to just "pretends", even though the action is happening at the moment when I'm saying it.

Other versions I'm considering are:

  1. My niece pretends to have been playing the piano for a whole hour.
  2. My niece has been pretending to play the piano for a whole hour.
  3. My niece pretends to be playing the piano for a whole hour.

I would be grateful if you could guide me with these sentences. I'm especially interested to know whether it's grammatically correct to use perfect continuous infinitive with present continuous.

1 Answer 1

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Present continuous is definitely useful in this sentence, and you don't have to use simple present for "pretends." (Doing that would change the meaning to a more general time frame, like "Sometimes my niece pretends to..." instead of right a this moment.)

There is a slight difference of meaning based on the choices, though.

  • "My niece has been pretending to play the piano for a whole hour" —This means that, for the past hour, she has been pretending to play the piano.
  • "My niece is pretending to have been playing the piano for a whole hour." —This means that at this moment she is pretending, and what she pretends is that for the past hour she has been playing piano. She may in fact have been doing something else for an hour.
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  • Thank you! So if I use the sentence "She pretends to have been playing the piano for a whole hour", it will mean that she pretends to do it regularly? Should I change the infinitive part then( to have been playing) either to "to be playing" or "to play" if it's a repetitive action?
    – Marie Mit
    Mar 17 at 16:26
  • @MarieMit Yes, that sentence would mean that from time to time she says "Aunt Marie, I've been playing the piano for a whole hour!" ... when in fact she hasn't. If this is the meaning, there's no need to change the verb tense of "have been"; the tense of "pretends" is what creates the sense of recurring action. Mar 17 at 17:21
  • thanks for the clarification! What's the difference between "She pretends to be playing the piano" and "She pretends to play the piano" and "She is pretending to play the piano"?
    – Marie Mit
    Mar 17 at 17:40
  • @MarieMit Please ask separate questions separately. Comments are not meant for extended chat. (And the answer to these questions would be "please show that you've looked up simple present and simple continuous, what you found, and how that fails to explain your question.") Mar 17 at 17:48
  • @MarieMit The last one should be clear: "She is pretending" makes it absolutely clear that you're talking about this exact moment. In the other two, though, "she pretends" is vague about the timing. It might mean "sometimes she pretends," perhaps often, perhaps not often. Once you've created that meaning, there's little difference in meaning between "to play" and "to be playing." Mar 17 at 17:51

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