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I was doing Destination C1 and C2 grammar and vocabulary exercises when I came across this:

My dad ———————(always/tell) jokes, they’re mostly rubbish, though.

I thought the answer is "always tells" but the answer key for it is "is always telling".

What is the difference between "always tells" and "is always telling", and why in this situation "is always telling" is correct?

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Both sound natural and mean almost the same thing. There's a slight difference in connotation as to whether your dad tells jokes with regularity, or in an ongoing fashion. I wouldn't say either one is necessarily more correct.

The use of "is always telling" connotes more of an ongoing sense to the action. Consider the following two sentences:

That dog is always barking.

This means the dog has barked continually in the past, and that you expect him to in the future. It's happening at all times.

That dog always barks.

This sounds like something you might say when walking past someone's yard on your regular route, and having the dog bark at you every day. It may imply that the dog barks with regularity, but not necessarily at all times.

To go back to the dad example, "my dad always tells jokes" describes it a bit more as a character feature, while "my dad is always telling jokes" puts more emphasis on the ongoing action. The difference is quite subtle, however, and might not even be considered outside of a grammatical analysis.

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  • Or a movie dialogue....
    – Lambie
    Feb 28 at 13:48

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