I have the following exercise in my textbook:

So, Matt, how are things with you? You (look) very well.

The context is “. . . conversation between two ex-colleagues who have not seen each other for some time.” It is asked to use the appropriate tense of look, one of the present simple and present continuous or both.

Both tenses are valid, according to the textbook. Why is the present continuous valid?

Here, I think “look” is a stative verb. It is used to describe what the other person is. He “looks good.” Why would one want to use the present continuous here? To suggest what? The speaker doesn’t seem to suggest the state of “looking good” is temporary or for a period of time around the present.

1 Answer 1


"You are looking good" is a fixed phrase, almost an idiom. It is used to indicate that the person's appearance is positive at the current moment, thus the present continuous is appropriate, It is often used when the suggestion is as much of a healthy appearance as of a merely attractive one. It is also used metaphorically, to indicate that a person seems to be doing well in some undertaking or project or competition.

A fluent speaker might well use this expression because it is such a common one, without carefully analyzing present simple vs present continuous. But if it were chosen with intent, it would be to emphasize the good appearance at the current moment. I can imagine it being used to someone before a job interview, or a date, to assure that person that his or her appearance is all that it should be. That does not quite fit the context given by the textbook.

But fluent speakers will often use a continuous form without carefully considering if they wish to particularly emphasize the current moment as opposed to a longer-term situation. Thus the use of a continuous form does not reliably indicate such an intention. It may have no significant difference in meaning from a use of the present simple.

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