Do we often use the present continuous tense with "fall asleep" and "drift off", for example, "he is falling asleep" and "he is drifting off"?

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Ngram says that "he fell asleep" and "he drifted off" are more common than "he is falling asleep" and "he is drifting off".

  • Yes. It is regularly used. "He fell asleep" describes a past event, "he is falling asleep" is something happening right now.
    – WS2
    Jun 28, 2023 at 6:58
  • Your ngram is comparing apples and oranges (or perhaps apples and pears), because the first two terms are in the past tense while the latter two are in the present tense. It would be more useful to compare apples to apples. Jun 28, 2023 at 19:10
  • He was drifting off or falling asleep when the phone rang. Past continuous is very common and one can always find ways to use the PC, too. "Look at Tom in his beach chair. He looks like he is drifting off".
    – Lambie
    Jul 19, 2023 at 17:07

1 Answer 1


Yes, we commonly use present continuous with "fall asleep" and "drift off".

Ngram is based on books. Most books describing people falling asleep are novels, so are written in the simple past. Only dialogue would include present continuous forms of these verbs, so this doesn't reflect how people talk in daily life.

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