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Can you please tell me what's the difference in meaning between expect someone to do something and be expecting someone to do something? For example:

The boss expects me to finish the project by Friday.

The boss is expecting me to finish the project by Friday.

I don't expect you to return the book right away.

I'm not expecting you to return the book right away.

I hear both used but can't figure out the slight difference in meaning and the contexts where one is used rather than the other. Unfortunately the grammar books I have don't answer the question.

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  • Present simple and present continuous are both used to express the future. I (don't) leave for Paris on Wednesday. I'm (not) leaving for Paris on Wednesday.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 16, 2022 at 11:08

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The difference is slight. When you say "is expecting" there is a sense of the ongoing nature of the expectation. When you say "expects" you are referring to an expectation in the present moment. But a native speaker, at least of American English, is not likely to be conscious of this difference. For practical purposes, both forms are equivalent.

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    As a BrE speaker, if the boss expects me to do sth they would always expect that, whereas 'is expecting' is in the present moment, or quite soon. Jul 16, 2022 at 12:20
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    To me (also BrE), expect someone to do something can have overtones of requiring them to do it (you will be in trouble if you don't finish the project by Friday), while be expecting someone to do something sounds more relaxed, like a prediction (the project shouldn't take more than a few days). Jul 16, 2022 at 16:00

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