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I teach English. Recently, as I was getting prepared for one of my classes, I came across an exercise in a coursebook that was pretty confusing.

The exercise gives students a list of time expressions (like: now, nowadays, this year, now, usually, etc.). The students must decide which of the given time expressions should be used with the present simple or with the present continues or with the both. The exercise seems to be pretty easy, but some of the answers that I found in the teachers book key got me confused and I can`t wrap my head around them.

So the key in the teacher`s book says:

currently - Present Continuous and Present Simple

at the moment - Present Continuous and Present Simple

It kind of contradicts everything I`ve learned about the present simple. How can "at the moment" and "currently" be used with this tense, as they express the idea of something temporary?

EDIT

I`m afraid most of the examples that you gave have no explanation attached to them, or completely miss the point of my question.

Let`s start from these:

He needs your help at the moment.

As we all know, the verb "need" cannot be used in the continuous form as it belongs to "non-progressive" group of verbs. It's simply a verb that doesn't take continuous form, even when used in the "present continuous" context.

Adam currently lives in London.

Ok, this example looks interesting, but no explanation is given to what exactly "currently" means here. Usually "currently" is typically used with the present continuous as it suggests an ongoing action or process (i.e. "I`m currently working on this very interesting project) Please, tell me why currently is used with a sentence describing a permanent state.

I don't have any money at the moment.

-The verb "to have" when used in meaning "to possess", doesn't change its form to progressive, even when used in the present continues tense context. So, this sentence doesn't really touch my point, as it presents a very typical, continuous context.

I currently work in a computer company.

Again, why use "currently" if the sentence refers to a general state.

Please, when giving further examples, don't use "non-progressive" verbs, or special verbs like have/be as they don't take continuous form.

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    what makes you think that they express the idea of something temporary? – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Apr 20 '15 at 21:26
  • what makes you think they don`t? – Igo Apr 20 '15 at 21:37
  • They don't necessarily imply a temporary state or idea. – zerohedge Apr 20 '15 at 22:16
  • Examples might help: a) She currently lives in California. b) Are we not, at this very precise moment, in this ELL question together? – Damkerng T. Apr 20 '15 at 22:32
  • When "most of the examples completely miss the point of a question," there's a good chance you didn't provide enough information in your original question. Thanks for responding – but I think you might need to give some more concrete examples that expaln what you are trying to ask about. – J.R. Apr 21 '15 at 9:31
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The time frames "currently" and "at the moment" can refer to a temporary situation, but they can also refer to a situation or action that might continue into the future.

Of the two, I would say that "at the moment" most often refers to a transient or ephemeral action/state, and yet, it most often takes present continuous.

  • What is your favorite color?
  • At the moment, I'm thinking.

  • Who robbed the bank?

  • At the moment, we don't have any suspects.

But in some cases (with non-stative verbs) it simply cannot take simple present:

  • Where are you going?
  • At the moment, I go home (wrong)
  • At the moment, I am going home.

"Currently", on the other hand, most often applies to actions or states that are continuing, and might continue indefinitely: :

  • Who robbed the bank?
  • Currently, we're looking into it.

yet it can reasonably take simple present:

  • What inventory valuation method do you use?
  • Currently, we use FIFO.

So, all I can say is that your prior notions about simple present vs. present progressive were much too constrained.

By the way, for what it's worth: "currently" extends a litlle into the past, whereas "at the moment" doesn't.

And, as you well know, one can say "I am going to school tomorrow." (But that's a different kettle of fish. Or maybe a horse of a different color. Or, more likely, a fish of a different color—namely, a red herring.)

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The answer to your question is related to the something temporary.

Currently is an adverb and derives from the adjective current. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language one of its meanings is:

Being in progress now. (Definition #1, b).

As such, something temporary is actually not quite temporary but in progress now.

As regards the expression at the moment, similarly it can be seen in progress now too.

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Speaking of examples, my favourite is:

Hello, you've reached Mrs. and Mr. X. We are currently not available. Please leave a message.

They are not available at this particular moment, and they will probably be unavailable for a while, but not forever.

And for something in progress:

Neighbour A: "Would you like to come over to watch the new episode of 'soap-opera X' with me?" Neighbour B: "I'm currently washing the dishes. I'll join you in 10 minutes."

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I think it's a misconceived notion that "currently and at the moment"cannot be used in the present simple. Please look at the following sentences:

  1. He needs your help at the moment.

  2. I don't have any money at the moment.

  3. The Manager isn't available at the moment.

  4. I am currently working/ I currently work in a computer company.

  5. Adam is currently living/Adam currently lives in London.

  6. I am currently speaking/I currently speak three foreign languages.

  7. Our company is currently producing/currently produces 20 cars per month.

  8. I am currently spending/I currently spend most of my free time working in my garden.

  9. He is currently playing/he currently plays golf.

  10. We are currently using/we currently use computer for shopping.

Please note that the adverb currently means at the present time/period.

As a grammar rule, you don't use the continuous form with stative verbs (sentences #1 to #3). Hence, the use of the present simple isn't possible in these sentences. However, the use of the present simple and the present continuous is equally common for the verbs live and work (Sentences #4 and #5). For other dynamic verbs (sentences #6 to #10), the use of the present continuous is usual and common. However, the use of the present simple, though not very common/not considered very good, is possible.

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    That's a pretty good trick, speaking three foreign languages at the same moment! You must have three tongues! – Brian Hitchcock Apr 22 '15 at 8:52
  • Brian, very interesting and funny comments. I don't speak 3 languages at the same time; I do speak 3 languages now/at the present time/currently = at the moment. Maybe I would b able to speak 4 languages after a year. By the way, I appreciate your comments. I think the use of "at the moment" in the sentence seems ambiguous. How about "currently?". – Khan Apr 22 '15 at 10:59
  • It seems that if you just say "I speak 3 languages", it is understood to mean that you know 3 languages and can speak any of them. This is not an ability that is aquired instantly, nor would it disappear suddenly—which is why it sounds odd to say "at the moment..." however, if you say "currently I speak 3 languages", it sounds normal; it leaves open the possibility that in the future you might learn another one. – Brian Hitchcock Apr 23 '15 at 6:10
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Consider a sentence as simple as:

  • I eat salted pretzels.

Without further context, the simple present in this sentence probably implies the habitual aspect.  As it stands, there's no real reason to assume that I will break this habit.  Let's add "currently" to the sentence and give it some additional context:

  • I currently eat salted pretzels.  Unfortunately, I need to do something about my high blood pressure under.

Now the possibly temporary nature of my established habit makes sense.  There is an implication that I may soon break this habit, and a reason that I would at least consider it.

The sentence is different than "I am currently eating pretzels."  Where the simple present can indicate a present habit, the present continuous indicates a present, immediate action.

At least a couple of the other examples could also benefit from added context:

  • Adam currently lives in London.  This is his last year at university.
  • I currently work at a computer company, but I've been in touch with a few financial industry headhunters.

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