When someone takes my pencil, how can I ask them why they did it? Is it Why are you taking it? or Why do you take it?

I don't know what the difference between these two sentences is.

  • If you have two questions, you should ask them in two separate posts. "Why are you taking it?" can be correct if you say this at the very moment the pencil is being taken; otherwise it doesn't make sense. "Why do you take it?" would make sense if this is not the first time the person has taken the pencil, as in it's a recurring thing. Otherwise it's strange. I would recommend "Why did you take it?" or "Why did you take my pencil?"
    – Matt Samuel
    Nov 19, 2015 at 23:58
  • "Whatcha need my pencil for?" "What are you doing being awake?"
    – Ricky
    Nov 20, 2015 at 0:39

2 Answers 2


This is the difference between the simple present tense, "Why do you take it?" and the present progressive tense, "Why are you taking it?".

The simple present tense is generally used for recurring actions. The present progressive is generally used for actions occurring right now.

So if you say "Why do you take it?" you are asking about a regular action, which probably happened before. If you say "Why are you taking it?" you are talking about only this current instance of taking.


English has a variety of such constructions that have sometimes subtle differences in meaning. As the Kyle noted, "why are you taking..." Is appropriate when the act in question is still in progress. Here are some more variations:

"Why did you take..." Is used when you want to know the reason for an act that is finished.

"Why were you taking..." Is used if you want to ask about someone's thoughts or state of mind while an act which is now finished was still in progress.

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