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I know that we should use Present Simple when we talk about things in general and Present Continuous when we talk about something incomplete that is happening around time of speaking. I also know that we can use Present Continuous even when we talk about very long periods of time like in the following sentence:

Kate wants to work in Italy, so she’s learning Italian.

Now lets consider this sentence:

Our children go to the same school.

I see that people don't use Present Continuous in sentences like the one above. Why? In this sentence we talk about long yet quite definite period of time (for example, they started going to the same school 3 years ago and will finish going to it in another 7 years because they will graduate the school). Please explain why, despite this reasoning, people still prefer to use Present Simple in the last example.

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  • Our children go to the same school. is a generality. It's fine. And yes, people do use that form.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 1 at 16:16

2 Answers 2

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I can't give a technical explanation, but here's the subtle usage difference.

Our children go to the same school.

Is a statement of fact, outside of any other consideration.

Our children are going to the same school until the new middle school is finished.

So the continuous form implies a transient condition to the situation.

They are overlapping mostly interchangeable.

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  • Thank you for your answer Johns. I remember the following example: "Ellie is a student. She is studying philosophy." Why is Present Simple used here? It's also statement of fact.
    – user341
    Commented Aug 5, 2023 at 23:21
  • @user341 Yes, but it is a continuous situation, studying philosophy. She studies philosophy on Tuesday. Because it's just on Tuesday.
    – DTRT
    Commented Aug 5, 2023 at 23:25
  • Perhaps my memory is cheating on me, but in that example it was also about a rather long period of time (for example, she specializes in philosophy and she studies it throughout her studies at the university). Would you prefer to use Present Simple in this case?
    – user341
    Commented Aug 5, 2023 at 23:32
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    Yes, you could. I was just trying to rationalise why we usually (I think) use the continuous tense for university students. Commented Aug 7, 2023 at 8:09
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    "Our children are going to the same school" would be valid but might imply a more temporary situation. A lot of these choices are based on what is idiomatic (specific combinations of tense, verb, and object noun) and there aren't firm rules other than "do what others do".
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 3 at 12:39
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I think it depends on what you want to mention. Present continuous always feels like something is temporary (even when it follows by some words wich can make it longer like study, learn, live, etc). But we have the opposite of that for simple present, wich includes facts or permanently actions.

E.g

My parents live in Austrolia.

My parents are living in Australia.

So in different situations with different purposes we can use wich is closer to what we want to mention.

If I say our sons go to the same school, probably I want to mention that as a fact not as a temporary situation.

  • The reason why people prefer using simple present insted of present continuous is because I think they prefer to tell you about somthing in general or as a fact.

Our children are going to the same school.

Oh! You mean you're planning to end it?

No!!

So why you didn't use simple present?

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    Commented Jan 3 at 18:28

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