Dabbling too deep into the theoretical grammar, I found myself in front of an unexpected obstacle. Logically speaking, if the present simple tense is mostly focused on habitual events, then when I'm reporting something that was said just a while ago, should I go with:

Lucy says she wants to play World of Warcraft now.


Lucy is saying she wants to play World of Warcraft now.

Personally, I'd choose the first option, though I'm not convinced that the second one is incorrect.

On the other hand, I feel that dropping the word "now" would make the sentence ambiguous, changing the possible meaning to something like "She said that she wants to play it someday". In this case I'm even more doubtful about the correctness of the present continues option. I feel the same about:

Lucy tells me she wants to see Florida.

Lucy is telling me she wants to see Florida.

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    I think you've hit the nail on the head in your first sentence (dabbling too deep). Present Continuous strongly implies Lucy is speaking right now, at this very moment, so the actual word "now" is somewhat redundant (but by no means incorrect or otherwise unusual). If Lucy had actually been saying for several days that she wanted to play WoW at three o'clock on Sunday afternoon, Simple Present would still be perfectly okay even if in fact she hadn't specifically said it today (continuous would credible but unlikely), but that's a very fine distinction that would rarely be relevant. Apr 26, 2015 at 13:13
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    Context is king. These sentences could mean any number of things. For example, Lucy says she wants to play tennis could mean, "Lucy would prefer that we play tennis rather than go to that movie" or "Lucy wants to learn how to play tennis". Lucy is saying the piano needs tuning could mean "Since you are hard of hearing, I'll repeat what Lucy has just said, and I'll shout the words into your ear, dear." or "Lucy has mentioned on a number of occasions recently that the piano is out of tune".
    – TimR
    Apr 26, 2015 at 13:29
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    Both versions are fine, and in your exact context it's unlikely the listener would draw any inference from the choice you made. I'm sure most native speakers would use Simple Present, because in general we avoid the more complex tense where it conveys no additional information. Apr 26, 2015 at 13:30
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    I agree with all the comments above, but I wonder how often native speakers will use tells (or is telling) for saying that Lucy told the speaker that "a while ago" in reporting (which is different from re-telling, where the present tenses can be used whenever it's appropriate, even though the event happened years or ages ago). Apr 26, 2015 at 14:15
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    I'm a native AmE speaker... In your phone conversation example in the comments, I'd definitely be at least as likely to say "Lucy is saying" as I'd be to say "Lucy says".... particularly if someone asked "What is she saying?".
    – Catija
    Apr 26, 2015 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


Both are correct. There are two main effects of the second forms with present continuous verbs. They emphasize ongoing current action. "Lucy is saying..." suggests that the statement is still in progress (mid-sentence). The other possible effect of changing from 'says' to 'is saying' is to emphasize the statement. The use of 'to be' is warranted if the existence of the action is itself important. Otherwise, it is generally clearer and more efficient to use simple conjugation verbs. Basically, unless you particularly want to emphasize the timing ('happening now') you should use simple.

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    -1 I don't think active/passive verb forms is remotely connected to this question. Apr 28, 2015 at 15:35
  • Ha ha, you are quite right. I'm not sure what made me think of "active vs passive" instead of "simple vs present continuous". Of course, other than that misreference, I stand by my answer. But now a conundrum...is it better to revise the answer or leave the error and correction as possibly useful clarification?
    – elc
    Apr 28, 2015 at 16:31
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    @elc: Go ahead and fix it. The only time to leave it is if there's no way to salvage an answer without wholly rewriting from premise on up. Apr 28, 2015 at 17:50
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    Absolutely what @Nathan said. I got an inbox ping/notification because the SE software is smart enough to guess your comment must be a reply to mine. Thus I've been prompted to review and remove the downvote (and you won't get any more for that reason), so it's in your own interests on the rep front. But mainly it helps improve the site itself. It's up to you whether your revised answer still references original errors now corrected. Ask yourself whether it'll help future visitors, bearing in mind that we or the mods might delete these comments at any time, so you don't need to explain them. Apr 29, 2015 at 11:30

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