I have come across the following pair of sentences on an iTool to the course book which prepares students for Cambridge Key English Test.

There must be a mistake in the second pair of sentences because option A should be correct (though option B is ticked as the correct one).

Am I right in thinking so?

enter image description here

  • 3
    I'm not sure A is 'wrong' but it's horribly awkward. 'while doing' might help it out. Dec 11, 2014 at 11:15
  • 3
    @CopperKettle: (speaking for American English). When we unambiguously wish to say that our practice or wont is to do such-and-such, we use the simple present: I snore. I eat lunch at 12 sharp every day. When we wish to say that something occurs regularly or typically, we can use the progressive: Q: How do you like retirement? A: It suits me fine. I'm out walking on the beach most days by 6AM.
    – TimR
    Dec 11, 2014 at 14:37
  • 1
    @TRomano I second that. You are using continuous tense to mean the habitual action. It's only possible due to the inclusion of "most days". Nice examples. Dec 11, 2014 at 14:54
  • 1
    In case you have a copy of the 2002 CGEL handy, it talks about this topic or topics. (There's some related info on pages 165-6, [7] and [11]. E.g. [11.iii] "She was reading while he was watching TV.") As for your question in the OP, could you also provide the course book's question so that we can see what it thought it was asking about?
    – F.E.
    Dec 11, 2014 at 19:11
  • 1
    there is no context - it is what it is (I've quoted the rubric for you as well) - I'm not the one who made up the exercise in question @F.E.
    – Yukatan
    Dec 12, 2014 at 18:00

3 Answers 3


The sentences describing Benjamin are extremely close in meaning. The sentences describing listening and doing homework are different. A describes what you are doing right now, in the immediate present. There is no implication that you have done so in the past or will do so in the future.

B describes what you normally do. It applies to the present, the past and, potentially, to the future.

  • As an English teacher I do get all the examples and explanations given above, but the thing is that none of the sentences applies to the three uses of the present continuous tense we have covered so far i.e.: 1. we use PC for actions happening at the moment of speaking 2. we use PC for actions happening 'around' now 3. we use PC with 'always' for annoying actions that happen repeatedly
    – Yukatan
    Dec 11, 2014 at 14:36
  • 1
    @Yukatan I applies to actions happening right now: ie number 1! (But that's not the reading we want!) Dec 11, 2014 at 18:47

We can use while or as to talk about two longer events or activities happening at the same time. We can use either simple or continuous verb forms. In this case, we can use simple verb form to describe a habit. Therefore, the answer is correct.


Benjamin is working this month IDIOMATIC AMERICAN ENGLISH

Benjamin works this month NOT QUITE IDIOMATIC|UNIDIOMATIC " "

I am listening to the radio while I am doing my homework.

I'm listening to the radio while I'm doing my homework. OK, but requires something like the question, What are you doing at this moment?

I listen to the radio while I do my homework. IDIOMATIC ( it is my general practice to have the radio on when I do my homework).

  • I'm listening to the radio while I'm doing my homework. OK, but requires the question, What are you doing at this moment? - The answer is at present I am doing two things - listening to music as well as doing my home work. I really didn't get the point in your explanation (I marked that part in bold) Dec 11, 2014 at 13:57
  • 1
    What does your vertical pipe indicate?
    – user230
    Dec 11, 2014 at 13:58
  • 1
    I'm listening ... while I'm doing means "at this moment I am listening to the radio while doing my homework." Such a statement makes sense when one receives a phone call, say, and the person asks "What are|were you doing just now?" It does not imply habitual practice.
    – TimR
    Dec 11, 2014 at 14:00
  • @snailboat: Vertical pipe is a shorthand way of separating items in a list of valid choices in some forms of technical writing. E.g.: I go, he|she|it goes.
    – TimR
    Dec 11, 2014 at 14:03
  • I am not saying that it refers to a habitual practice. You means such kind of actions that are done simultaneously at a given moment only makes sense when it refers to receiving phone calls? Dec 11, 2014 at 14:04

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .