I have some question about present continuous. My text book was written like this. The present continuous is used that sometimes the action is not happening at the time of speaking. For example, Steve is talking to a friend on the phone. He says. I'm reading a really good book at the moment. It's about a man who...

Steve is not reading a book at the time of speaking.

at here, I don't understand the usage. How can I understand as to this usages? What does this implies ? Just it emphasis? Or just boast of himself?

Actually I can't understand when do I use this usages?

for another example, Kate wants to work Italy, so she is learning Italian.(but perhaps she isn't learning Italian at the time of speaking) Ok. Then what does it want to expression? Why this sentence used by -ing ?

1 Answer 1


The present progressive/continuous does not necessarily mean that an action is taking place at the moment of speaking. "It expresses the speaker's view of the event as having limited duration" (Michael Lewis, The English Verb, 1986.97).

1.Steve is in the study. He's reading a book.

In [1], Steve's reading of the letter has duration; it started before the moment of speaking/writing and continues after it. That duration is limited; some (unspecified) time ago we know that he was not reading, and at some (also unspecified) time in the future, when he reaches the end of the letter, he will stop. The Progressive (Continuous) Aspect, sometimes, denotes a situation in progress at the moment of speaking.

2. Kate wants to work in Italy. She is learning Italian.

In [2], the limited duration of the activity is evident from the context. Unless uttered by the speaker when Kate is in the middle of her Italian studies, then the action is not necessarily taking place at the moment of speaking.

  • How about this expression" you are working hard today"(but it means that usually he does not work hardly).(also we know he does not work hardly often)
    – Carter
    Nov 18, 2014 at 14:25
  • @Carter. The use of the progressive aspect and of the adverb today both mean that the work referred to is of limited duration. That does not necessarily imply that the person addressed does not work hard at other times. Incidentally, if you work hard, you put a lot of effort into your work; if you hardly work, you do almost no work.
    – tunny
    Nov 18, 2014 at 14:37

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