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Recently I have come across the following usage of the present simple tense in the coursebook Cambridge English Key for Schools Result OUP 2013:

Excuse me. Do you close at 8 o'clock this evening? ~ No. I'm afraid we close at six.

Isn't it supposed to be the present continuous since 'this evening' is mentioned?

  • possible duplicate of Meaning of the present tense in this context? – Stephie Dec 11 '14 at 10:58
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    I don't see how it can be a duplicate because the link to the question you have given me doesn't answer my question at all – Yukatan Dec 11 '14 at 10:59
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    @snailboat What are you doing this evening ~ I'm doing nothing over I do nothing. This is what OP means I think. – Maulik V Dec 11 '14 at 11:55
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    I would like to hear some expalnation or to get a reason for not using the present continuous in this particular case from a reliable source not because I doubt a native American speaker but because I have to explain everything to my students in order for them to be able to express themselves clearly @CarSmack – Yukatan Dec 12 '14 at 5:41
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    Both "Do you close at 8 o'clock this evening?" and "Are you closing at 8 o'clock this evening?" are fine English sentences. They could have slightly different meanings, and one or the other might be more appropriate for different contexts. It mostly depends on what the speaker, and what the speaker thinks they are asking, as to which version is more appropriate. -- And both "No. I'm afraid we close at six" and "No. I'm afraid we are closing at six" could be reasonable responses -- though there are slight different nuances between them as to meanings and assumptions. – F.E. Dec 12 '14 at 6:59
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A: "Excuse me. Do you close at 8 o'clock this evening?"

B: "No. I'm afraid we close at six."

QUESTION: Isn't it (#A) supposed to be the present continuous since 'this evening' is mentioned?

ANSWER: No, both can be used as the #A's question, since the time adjunct "this evening" is not a factor here:

  1. A: "Excuse me. Do you close at 8 o'clock this evening?" -- (simple-present, as in the OP example)
  2. A: "Excuse me. Are you closing at 8 o'clock this evening?" -- (present-continuous)

It would seem that for most expected types of contexts, that either the simple-present version (#1) or the present-continuous version (#2) would be fully acceptable.

Though, it is possible that a specific context and the speaker's intent, or frame of mind, can make one version more probable than the other. For instance:

  • If the speaker is in a bad mood, or in a hurry, or is trying to sound concise, etc., then the speaker might tend to use the shorter simple-present version (#1).

  • If the speaker is trying to be polite, or be more polite, or wants to put more attention onto the actual expected time of closing which might be different from what it would normally be, etc., then the speaker might tend to use the longer present-continuous version (#2), or even possibly a longer version such as, #3.) "Excuse me. Are you going to be closing at 8 o'clock this evening?" which uses the "BE going to Verb" construction.

Note that the above considerations also apply to #B's possible responses, such as:

  1. B: "No. I'm afraid we close at six." -- (simple-present)

  2. B: "No. I'm afraid we are closing at six." -- (present-continuous)

And of course, there can also be even longer forms, such as:

  1. B: "No. I'm afraid we are going to be closing at six." -- ("BE going to Verb")

NOTE: There are some types of situations where it might be preferable, or expected, to use a simple-present tense over a present-continuous, and vice versa. But this whole topic of one versus the other is rather large and involved, and it's better to discuss a specific situation than to try to cover the whole topic in one post.

ASIDE: There's a lot of info out there on the continuous (i.e. progressive) construction. It is not possible to explain the ins-and-outs of that topic in a handful of pages or in a few short lessons. Linguists are still arguing and disagreeing on many of the involved issues. Anyway, here's one tidbit that is somewhat related to the OP's post -- an excerpt from Change in Contemporary English, by Leech, Hundt, Mair, Smith, paperback published 2012, page 140:

  • Thus in (51), I will not be taking part is likely to come across as more tactful -- less like a forthright refusal -- than I will not take part, I'm not going to take part, etc.

Notice how the longer version "I will not be taking part", with the continuous "be taking", is considered to be politer than the shorter version "I will not take part".

  • I found in Huddleston&Pullum that in "Will you be going to the shops this afternoon?" (1), the sense differs from "will you go"(2) in that in (2) we have a request, while in (1) ".. the progressive indicates that the matter has already been settled rather than being subject to decision now." So it's as if we making sure in a polite way, as I understand. I wonder if it will be okay to ask "Will you be closing at 8 o'clock this evening?". If not, will it be in case the asker is a habitual visitor who knows the exact hours and probably is acquainted with the worker of the shop. – CowperKettle Dec 14 '14 at 18:18
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    @CopperKettle "Will you be closing at 8 o'clock this evening?" <== That can be asked by any visitor, whether they know the regular closing hours or not. – F.E. Dec 15 '14 at 6:10
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    @CopperKettle (cont.) As to CGEL pg 171-2, [22.ii], they are discussing a specific situation where your #1 is compared to #2; but that longer #1 version can also be used as an indirect polite request, e.g. consider a guy about to leave the house with car keys in hand and his mother asks him "Will you be going to the store?" and he replies, "No, I wasn't, but I guess I could, so, is there anything you want me to get?" where no prior decision was made to go to the store. – F.E. Dec 15 '14 at 6:11
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Excuse me. Do you close at 8 o'clock this evening? ~ No. I'm afraid we close at six.

Isn't it supposed to be the present continuous since 'this evening' is mentioned?

In American English, the reply No, I'm afraid we close at six is correct, no matter whether one is talking about a specific evening, every evening, and/or a special evening.

No, I'm afraid we close at six tonight, but tomorrow evening we close at eight. (Notice the use of present tense to refer to a future event.)

No, I'm afraid we close at six tonight, like every night.

No, I'm afraid we close at six tonight; it's Christmas Eve, in case you forgot.

  • so, you would never think of using the present continuous in this exact situation? @CarSmack I'm even more concerned with the question, is the present continuous possible in the question because of the adverbial modifier of time 'this evening' – Yukatan Dec 12 '14 at 5:38
  • You can use the present continuous in the question, if you want. If so, the answer may or may not be in the present simple. I am only answering the original question, 'Do you close at 8 o'clock this evening?' – user6951 Dec 12 '14 at 6:29
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IMO, you are right! But..

Provided the speaker and the listener both are talking about today's timing and today being some special day, yes, it requires present continuous. Say, today is Dec 24.

Do you close at 8 o'clock this evening (though Christmas Eve)? ~ No, I'm afraid we are closing at six this evening.

But mind it, 'the evening' they are talking about is not a usual evening but some special where they are supposed to be up till night 8. As I mentioned, Christmas Eve.

I see it quite similar to telling someone daily habit or an action performed on a particular day (with present continuous). I go for a walk in the morning over I am going for a walk this morning. A lot depends on 'going & this' there!

Nevertheless, if they are talking about daily timing of closing the shop (or whatever), the simple tense is okay.

Do you close at 8 o'clock? ~ No, we close at six.

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    -1 So, ColleenV, Maulik V are you suggesting/do you suggest that I remember this answer for two weeks from now? I mean, if I don't remember this answer and have somewhere to be on Christmas Eve I might make a mistake and say 'We close at six this evening.'??!! I'm sorry, as far as AmE is concerned, this answer is incorrect and misleading. It is just not at all correct, in AmE usage. – user6951 Dec 12 '14 at 4:51
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    I am not going to memorize special codes that you put in your individual answers (IMO, and all that). If the answer is incorrect, I will downvote it, I don't care who wrote it or where they're from. – user6951 Dec 12 '14 at 5:36
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    -1, I was one of the voters who had downvoted this answer post. My reason for doing that is because this answer post is wrong. (It seems that people want this kind of information.) – F.E. Dec 12 '14 at 6:24
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    @MaulikV I've tried before to explain to you why your answers are wrong. I've tried to do that in various threads. It's helpless. So, now, when I downvote or make comments, it's mainly for the benefit of other readers and EFL learners who are reading that answer post. – F.E. Dec 12 '14 at 6:43
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    @MaulikV I do have other things to do, only a limited amount of free time. Spending it on you, trying to convince you when you are so sure that you are right and native English speakers are wrong, well, that's not a productive way to spend my time. For instance, this answer post of yours is wrong and yet you won't learn why and correct it. – F.E. Dec 12 '14 at 7:09
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The show airs tonight at 9pm is idiomatic whereas He volunteers tonight at 9pm is unidiomatic.

What are the differences?

I would think the differences arise for the following reasons: airs refers to the point in time when the TV station begins transmitting the show as well as to the ongoing transmission, whereas volunteers refers only to an ongoing act with no clearly demarcated beginning or ending. So "at 9PM" is good with "airs" but incongruous with "volunteers".

[P.S. I will qualify the above opinion, since it neglected a meaning of volunteers, namely, "to join something, as an army", in which case the act does have a beginning, so that "at 9PM" is not incongruous.]

"Close" is like "airs": it refers to the time when the store makes ready to close, and to the point in time when the doors are finally shut.

Because "air" and "close" have this finite-and-continuous time characteristic, we can also say:

The show is airing tonight at 9pm.

The store is closing tonight at 9pm.

If we omit "at 9pm" and say:

He works tonight.

we imply that tonight is one of the nights on which he is is typically scheduled to work.

He works Thursdays.

But if we say:

He's working tonight.

there is no implication that tonight is, as usual, a work night for him. It might be an unusual thing.

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