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You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I __________ you to see a doctor.

A. would take
B. am taking
C. have taken
D. took

The test is strange to me. Obviously, either C or D isn't the choice. The present continuous can be used to refer to the future when we talk about plans and arrangements that have already been made, but here the decision is immediate.

When showing immediate intentions and decisions, we usually use "will" or "'ll". From Cambridge dictonary. So I thought "I'll take you to see a doctor" sounds more natural.

B doesn't fix the gap. However, would is used to talk about willingness in past time situations. So I found none of the choices would fit well.

I wonder if you tell me if it is suitable to use would here. Or I have misunderstood something? Also, "would" can be used with verbs such as "advise", "imagine", "recommend", "say", "suggest", and "think" to make what we say less direct. Does this use work in the sentence including "take"?

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    "You're having a fever" is not idiomatic English - it should be "You have a fever". Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 9:25
  • 11
    @Jones - that's not the same construction. "You're having a fever" is incorrect. Native English speakers would never say that.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 10:40
  • 6
    The general rule is "The present continuous is not used with stative verbs that express a feeling, belief, or state of being". To have a cold/fever/headache, etc, is a state of being. Therefore "You are having a fever" is ungrammatical.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 10:46
  • 13
    "My son was having a fever" sounds unidiomatic to me. People sometimes say odd things in unscripted conversations, when their thoughts 'change track' in mid-sentence. Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 11:06
  • 10
    To downvote a question that is so well-researched and so well presented is mean and irrational. I upvoted and if I could give a second upvote I would. The OP has found reputable sources that support the use of the Past Continuous: “But then the long bones in his legs began to hurt. He was having fevers.” (NYT) and “… my son was having a fever …“ (HuffP) The Past Cont. is used correctly in both instances, it therefore makes sense that the Present Cont. "You're having a fever" is acceptable, it may not be 100% idiomatic but it is grammatical, and if need be, I will die on this hill.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 11:09

7 Answers 7

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The answer is B.

As you said, -ing verbs are not only used for present continuous; they can also be used when we are talking about plans, arrangements and intentions. That can include an immediate intention.

Answer A is wrong because 'would' used in connection with a future event is hypothetical, or conditional when a condition is stated (eg "I would take you but I have no car").

Saying "I am taking you" expresses affirmatively what you immediately intend to do.

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    "I would " can be used to mean "I intend to" but it has an archaic sound as in "M'lord, I would speak with thee."
    – barbecue
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 17:47
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    @Mari-LouA: Pedantically, it is happening after the listener puts on their coat, so it is a future plan.
    – Kevin
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 18:19
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    @Kevin exactly - the immediate future
    – Astralbee
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 22:36
  • @Mari-LouA sorry if the needless repetition irritated you. I was still right in my reasoning as to why the given answer was correct and the other option was wrong. Does my edit please you?
    – Astralbee
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 22:38
  • 1
    It's not about ‘pleasing’ me, it's about accuracy and helping the OP out. I'm glad the question has finally attracted the attention and the upvotes it deserved. And I'm all for having multiple answers as long as they add something unique to the mix. Also, I didn't replicate your original answer in any shape or form, instead I gave you credit for explaining why "A" is wrong. It is perfect in its simplicity.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 23:44
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B. I am taking you to see a doctor

B is the only answer that is syntactically and semantically correct.

The speaker is telling the sick person what he or she is going to do now. The decision, which is not premeditated and did not take place in the past, precedes the action by seconds. There is an urgency in the speaker's words (put on your coat) that suggests there isn't a moment to lose. Similarly to the Pure Future, the Present Continuous tense can be used to express a decision taken at that moment (i.e. an instant decision).

For example:
A concerned owner realises that their cat has worms. "I'm taking the cat to the vet” they tell a family member as they bundle the cat in a carrier. The decision to visit the vet was not made in the past but at the moment of speaking; the equivalent “I'll take it to the vet” sounds less urgent, and hints that the visit could be delayed until later in the day. It also sounds like the speaker is offering to do the trip, this could be possible if in the house there are two or more people who could transport the cat to the vet.

In the OP's example, it seems there are only two people involved, the person with a fever (we don't know if he or she is minor) and what we can presume is an adult. The speaker is neither making an offer nor expressing a future plan or a previous arrangement.


A. I would take you to see a doctor

As Astralbee's answer explains, the if-clause, the condition, is missing e.g. “I would take you to see a doctor if the car wasn't at the mechanic. We'll just have to take the cab.”

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    The conditional can also be used to indicate a personal opinion or suggestion (“I'd take you to the doctor [if you ask me]”), which could just about fit in the context given. Not sure I’d really consider it idiomatic without contracting I would to I’d, though. Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 14:38
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    We usually use the present continuous when the plan is an arrangement – already confirmed with at least one other person and we know the time and place.---- From British Council However, it seems just an immediate personal decision here. I'm still not sure if it is safe to choose the present continuous to refer to an immediate personal decision.
    – Jones
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 16:42
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    @jones There's a reason why the British Council chooses its words carefully “We usually use the PC when the plan is an arrangement… ” B is the only correct answer in the list of options.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 18:27
  • 3
    Alternatively, "would ..." can express desire or intent for something to happen, but not necessarily urgency or immediacy. Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 21:08
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    A key point worth highlighting is this part of the original question: Put on your coat. From that, we can infer that the two people are together, and one has decided to take the other to the doctor, and that's what makes B (am taking) the correct answer. However, if we rephrased the question just a little bit: You're having a fever! I __________ you to see a doctor, but I can't leave work right now. then that would imply the two are talking on the telephone, and the correct answer would be A (would take) instead of B.
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 16:31
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I think you are interpreting "plans and arrangements that have already been made" to mean that the present continuous is wrong when you have only just made the decision. That is a misinterpretation. In fact, when you say "You have a fever. I'm taking you to the doctor," you are informing the other person that this is a decision that you have already (just) made. The present continuous is actually the best choice here because it conveys the implication that this is now a settled plan, and the sick person shouldn't argue with it. (Obviously, the other person can argue with it, but you are framing your sentence to discourage that.)

The option that's not in the list, "I'll take you to the doctor," is grammatically fine but not as good. In this context, the present continuous carries a sense of immediacy, almost as if the process is already underway. "I'll take you" sounds more like an offer than a settled plan, and it is less immediate.

"I would take you" is not correct. "I would advise you to go to the doctor" is fine, and that is what the rule you quoted is talking about. But "take" is not the sort of verb they are talking about there.

If you want real-world examples where the present continuous is used for a plan that has only just been made, there is a series of American commercials for Disneyland and Disney World where an athlete has just won a championship and an offscreen voice asks them "what are you going to do now," to which the athlete replies "I'm going to Disney World!" (Or Disneyland.) This doesn't convey the immediacy of "I'm taking you to the doctor", but the idea is supposed to be that they have just decided they're going as a way of celebrating the victory.

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    +1.. The present continuous can express the speaker's firm resolve to do something. They have come to a decision-point and have made a decision. That's it! I am selling this &#^$& car. It has broken down one too many times. Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 11:35
  • 1
    Perhaps even more than resolve, as @TimR says, the present continuous here acts almost as an order. It implies, vaguely, that the speaker is expecting the patient to protest or not want to go to the doctor, and the speaker will brook no such quarrels. Conversely – as you say – the future acts as more of an offer or a conditional (‘I’ll take you to the doctor if you want’), expecting the patient to be all for it. Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 9:59
  • I think that's what I said in my first paragraph too. Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 15:21
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This is actually an interesting question grammatically.

200 years or more ago, the answer would have been A. In older literature you will often see phrases such as "I would have an answer from you", meaning that I want you (order you) to answer me. You'll see this in Shakespeare, in the Brontë sisters's work, and I'm pretty sure I could find examples as late as Hardy and Dickens.

In that context, "I would take you to a hospital" means that I emphatically want/intend to take you to a hospital. But I have to be completely clear that this only applies if you were born before about 1800, maybe 1850 at the outside. People writing historical fiction may use this to have their characters speak in a way which sounds like the time they're writing about. If you're asking this question though, your English isn't yet up to this kind of advanced work.

In a more modern context, you can also use A, but with a different meaning, and only as part of a sentence. "I would take you to the hospital, but I don't have a car". In this case it's a hypothetical - something that if you had the ability then you would do it, but you cannot. You can only use this as part of a sentence, and it must always be followed by the reason you can't (or that reason must be obvious from context). Normally this is of the form " I would xxx, but yyy...".

With the sentence in the form it is though, B is the perfect answer for modern English. You intend, immediately, to take them to the hospital, so using the present tense is correct. This is interesting in itself too, because leaving for the hospital is slightly in the future, but preparations for leaving start now. For another example, if you had just picked up a sandwich and someone asked what you were doing, saying "I'm eating" is correct even if you haven't yet bitten into it.

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    @Mari-LouA Oops, yes!
    – Graham
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 21:28
  • "I would take you to a hospital" makes sense if the speaker knows that other person distrusts doctors!
    – Philip Roe
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 0:50
  • @PhilipRoe That's what I said - it's the "I would, but..." form. As I said, colloquially the reason is sometimes omitted if it's implicitly known for both sides.
    – Graham
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 6:28
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There's a lot to unpack here. First, the offered answers:

  • A is incorrect here since "You're having a fever!" tells you that the statement is being made about something that is happening right now; not in the past, nor theoretically, nor conditionally.
  • B is correct.
  • C is incorrect since "You're having a fever!" tells you that the statement is being made about something that is happening right now, not something that has already happened in the past.
  • D is incorrect since "You're having a fever!" tells you that the statement is being made about something that is happening right now, not something that happened in the past.

When showing immediate intentions and decisions, We usually use "will" or "'ll". [..] So I thought I'll take you to see a doctor sounds more natural.

"will" indicates future intent. It would be a grammatically correct answer except that it is not one of the offered multiple choices.

"I will take you to the doctor" can be used correctly in your example, but it also leaves the door open that I'll do it in the near future, not right now. By comparison, "I am taking you to the doctor" can only mean that this is what I'm currently doing. I'm taking you to the doctor now, not in a few hours.

However, would is used to talk about willingness in past time situations.

"Would" can also be used to express hypotheticals and conditionals. For example, this is perfectly correct:

Hypothetical - If you had a fever, I would take you to the doctor.

The above sentence is not expressing a current reality, it's expressing a hypothetical situation. However, this is not the case in the example you were given, where "You have a fever!" is a statement of fact (current reality), so "would" cannot be used here to express a hypothetical intention to take this person to the doctor.

Conditional - You have a fever! I would take you to the doctor if I had a driver's license.

It's a silly example, but what's being expressed here is that there is a condition (being in prison) that is blocking the intent (taking this person to the doctor). This is grammatically correct, but it is not the case in the example you were given since there is no condition mentioned.

So I found none of the choices would fit well. [..] Or I have misunderstood something?

The part you seem to have glossed over is that B (am taking) is a form that is used to express what is currently happening. E.g. I am painting the wall, I am answering your question, I am walking on the street.

The way this works is that inbetween "You have a fever" and "I ____ you to the doctor.", the speaker has made a decision, has started acting on that decision, and then informs the other person what they're already doing. To put it into a timeline:

  • I notice my friend has a fever.
  • I say "You have a fever!" to communicate my observation.
  • I think to myself, people with a fever should see the doctor.
  • I decide that I will take my friend to the doctor, and that I should do so immediately.
  • I have now started the task of taking my friend to the doctor.
  • I say "I am taking you to the doctor" to communicate to my friend that this is what I am actively doing right now.

Therefore, B is a correct answer to this question.

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tl;dr A native English speaker would probably say that the answer's (B). However, (B) still isn't a great answer, and it doesn't sound like something a native English speaker would say. Further confusion might come from the statement being worded with urgency and assertiveness. Yet more confusion might come from observing that all of the answers could work in different contexts. Still, (B) seems like the best of the choices.


The answer's (B): "am taking".

For the question

You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I __________ you to see a doctor.

  • A: would take

  • B: am taking

  • C: have taken

  • D: took

, most native English speakers would say that the answer's obviously (B):

You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I am taking you to see a doctor.

.


The question doesn't sound like native English.

A native English speaker wouldn't normally say

You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I am taking you to see a doctor.

, but rather something like:

You have a fever! Put on your coat; I'm taking you to the doctor.

. Part of the issue is that this excerpt is supposed to express urgency due to concern about a fever, so more terse language would be expected.

In fact, the answer (B) is kinda weird because using "am taking", rather than contracting it to "'m taking", goes against the urgency that the line's meant to convey.

There're other issues like:

  1. It's "the doctor", not "a doctor".

    If you ask your friend for a pen to borrow, then it's "a pen", because you want some pen. Then when your friend wants that pen back, if they ask for it specifically, then it's "the pen" that they let you borrow.

    By the same logic, someone might think that it's "a doctor" because they want to see some non-specific doctor. But that's wrong.

    The thing is that the speaker doesn't actually want to see "a doctor", but rather they want to see some abstract medical-assistance-rendering entity. In reality, this might take the form of a nurse, multiple nurses, a nurse practitioner, multiple nurse practitioners, a doctor, multiple doctors, or some combination thereof. This abstract medical-assistance-rendering entity is often called "the doctor". As an abstract concept, it's one specific thing, and so it's "the" rather than "a".

    • Other examples of this include "driving down the road", "going to the store", and "flying through the air".

    • Caveat: Of course, someone might actually intend to see specifically-1 non-specific doctor (and not a nurse, nurse practitioner, multiple doctors, or whatever else). If that's actually what they mean, then "a doctor" could work. This is sorta like how all of the answers (rather than just (B)) could work in various contexts.

  2. It's "You have a fever!", not "You're having a fever!".

    By default, typically folks would say that someone "has" something rather than "is having" something. For example, folks would tend to say "You have a fever!" rather than "You're having a fever!".

    Switching from "have" to "having" makes it sound more like the thing-being-had is being processed. For example,

    • "You have a 5-minute break." sounds like someone has a 5-minute break, e.g. they have the opportunity to take 5 minutes off at some point.

    • "You're having a 5-minute break." sounds like someone's currently processing a 5-minute break; this is, they're currently on a 5-minute break.

    Likewise, "You're having a fever." sounds like someone not only has a fever, but also that they're substantially processing the fever. Such a substantial processing wouldn't tend to relate to a concept commonly discussed, so it wouldn't seem meaningful in a general context, making it sound weird.

    If it's unclear, you may want to compare the statements:

    • "You have a [something]"; and

    • "You're having a [something]"

    for stuff like "moment", "dream", "day", "vacation", "flight", etc..

  3. Semi-colon for "Put on your coat; I'm taking you to the doctor.".

    This is a more minor issue, but generally a semi-colon (;) would be better than a period in that line.

    The issue's that "Put on your coat." doesn't really make much sense as a stand-alone sentence; its meaning and tone are heavily tied to the next independent-clause's.

    This is, those two independent-clauses could've been tied together with a conjunction like:

    • "Put on your coat, because I'm taking you to the doctor."

    • "Put on your coat, for I'm taking you to the doctor."

    • "Put on your coat, and I'm taking you to the doctor."

    • "Put on your coat, so I can take you to the doctor."

    , where such conjoinings seem more natural and consistent with what the speaker intends to say. Still, since the speaker's going for brevity/assertiveness (discussed later in this answer), they might prefer to join those clauses with a semi-colon.

    Reducing the semi-colon to a period, as in the question-statement, would generally sound much the same in spoken English, but it looks weird and disjointed in written English.


All of the answers are correct.

To reiterate, most native English speakers would say that (B) is the obvious answer. However, none of the answers is strictly wrong.

This is, all of the answers could be acceptable depending on context. To give an example of each answer possibly working:

  • A: You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I would take you to see a doctor. However, since the doctor's office won't open for another hour, we'll stop by Alice's place first to see if she can help.

  • B: You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I am taking you to see a doctor.

  • C: You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I have taken you to see a doctor. However, since they turned us away, telling us it's not a fever to have a slightly elevated temperature after hanging out in a hot tub, this time we'll stop by the "Homeopathic Hot Tub Hut for Wholesome Holistic Hokey" for advice (and possibly getting more hot tubs).

  • D: You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I took you to see a doctor. This time will be different. Yes, my friend, you see... this time, I shall CURE YOU MYSELF! MUHAHAHA! [magical sparkles in the background]

The main advantage to (B) is that it seem more like a stereotypical thing to say.


The answer (B) is assertive and urgent.

To again reiterate, most native English speakers would say that (B) is the obvious answer. However, it's not speaking very formally or literally.

This is,

You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I am taking you to see a doctor.

isn't literally true in that the speaker presumably isn't presently engaged in taking the listener to a doctor. Except, that's debatable – because one might argue that the speaker making their statement-of-intent is part of the steps that they're performing in pursuit of taking the listener to a doctor. (But then again, maybe something would happen to prevent the speaker from taking the listener to the doctor such that they weren't actually engaged in a process of taking the listener to the doctor despite their apparent intent to have been engaged in such a process.)

Still, usually we try to avoid saying things that're debatable or subjective when there're more clear, objective solutions. For example, the speaker could've said:

  1. You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I am going to take you to see a doctor.

  2. You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I will take you to see a doctor.

  3. You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I will try to take you to see a doctor.

  4. You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I want to take you to see a doctor.

  5. You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I intend to take you to see a doctor.

So, why might the speaker say something that's more subjective when it'd seem easy enough to be more precise, accurate, and literal?

A few things seem to be going on here:

  1. Brevity/terseness.

    • Common brevity/terseness.
      It's fairly common for folks to say things that aren't exactly literal. This might save time/effort for the speaker/listener.

    • Additional basis for brevity/terseness due to urgency.
      The speaker seems to be pressing for urgency, so they might go beyond casual brevity/terseness.

  2. Assertiveness.
    The speaker is speaking assertively, telling the listener to put on their coat and declaring that they're going to take the listener to see a doctor. They're pressing for their intended course-of-action, rather than merely stating factually true observations.

The speaker's urgency and assertiveness may play into the non-literal wording.


Discussion: That's a weird question.

As a native English speaker, it was easy for me to glance at that statement and say that the answer's (B).

But it's weird, because despite the fact that (B) could be easily picked out as the correct answer at a glance:

  1. (B) isn't actually correct because a native English speaker wouldn't actually say that.

  2. Even after fixing the non-native problems, (B) still wouldn't be a literally correct statement.

  3. All of the other answers could've been correct too.

So, if you considered (B), i.e.

You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I am taking you to see a doctor.

, and that didn't seem obviously correct to you, then.. well, I can sympathize, because that's not a great answer. It sounds non-idiomatic, unnatural, and tonally inconsistent, in addition to being non-literal and assertive.

Still, (B) seemed like the obvious answer because it seemed more complete in isolation. This is, to consider each of them separately:

  • A: You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I would take you to see a doctor.

    This seems incomplete because "I would take you to see a doctor." is just kinda dangling there without making a clear point. This could be fixed by context.

  • B: You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I am taking you to see a doctor.

    This sounds weird, but there's a dominant interpretation that makes sense enough.

  • C: You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I have taken you to see a doctor.

    This seems incomplete because "I haven taken you to see a doctor." is just kinda dangling there without making a clear point. This could be fixed by context.

  • D: You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I took you to see a doctor.

    This seems incomplete because "I took you to see a doctor." is just kinda dangling there without making a clear point. This could be fixed by context.


Discussion: "I am [action]" could make more sense in a forceful declaration.

As previously noted, part of what makes the answer (B),

You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I am taking you to see a doctor.

a weird is that no-one would say "I am taking you" in that context, but rather "I'm taking you".

"I'm taking you" would generally be preferred because:

  1. Native English speakers tend to prefer use of that contraction in informal contexts.

  2. Speakers tend to prefer brevity in urgent situations.

  3. Failure to use the contraction implies less urgency, which clashes tonally.

But to note it, there're somewhat similar situations where "I am [action]" might be preferred over the contraction. For example, in a forceful declaration like:

I am taking you to the doctor, whether you like it or not!

. Part of the reason a native speaker would prefer the contraction in this scenario is to avoid that forcefulness in favor of a gentle demeanor when speaking to the listener. This might be particularly motivating when, say, the speaker is the parent of a child who isn't feeling well and the parent feels compassionate toward their child.

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    Yes, it isn't difficult to guess where this originated (there are many clues, as you have described). Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 21:22
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    If I take someone to see "the doctor" it suggests that we have a specific GP. But I actually have to go to a health center and see "a doctor" since I would not be sure to see a specific doctor.
    – mplungjan
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 8:24
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Examples using the other constructions:

You're having a fever! Put on your coat. I am taking you to see a doctor.

If you were sick, I would take you to see a doctor.

I have taken you to see a doctor. He said you're fine!

No, it wasn't your cousin; I took you to see a doctor.

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