2

I had always used the present perfect tense for sentences such as "have done something x times in the last y hours" until I came across the following sentence:

"I'm eating pancakes for the fourth time in 6 hours"

Does it mean:

1)I'm eating pancakes for the 4th time in the last 6 hours (I have eaten pancakes thrice in the last 6 hours, and now I'm eating them for the fourth time in the same time period)

2)I will be eating pancakes for the 4th time in 6 hours time (will happen in the future)

Similarly, "I'm playing fifa for the second time in 4 hours"

1)I'm playing fifa for the second time in the last 4 hours (I have played it once in the last 4 hours, and now I'm playing it for the second time in the same time period)

2)I will be playing fifa for the second time in 4 hours time ( will happen in the future)

Also, I'm not sure whether (1) is grammatically correct. Present continuous doesn't sound correct some reason.

  • It is the first option in each example. I can't tell you exactly why, but I can say that to a native speaker, the intended meaning is that you have done something x times in the past y hours. If you said for the first time in x hours, you would be talking about the future. – fyrepenguin Mar 29 '16 at 2:41
  • 1
    You already answered your question. Because you used "I'm eating/playing" in your examples, it has to be 1) which uses the same form. You would have to use "I will be eating/playing" in order to match the meanings in 2). – user3169 Mar 29 '16 at 3:19
1

In your example

I'm eating pancakes for the fourth time in 6 hours
I am eating

is present tense and so you would say this while you are eating pancakes (your fourth time).

Prior to sitting down and eating more pancakes

I have eaten pancakes 3 times in the past 6 hours.
I had eaten pancakes 3 times in the past 6 hours.
I had pancakes 3 times in the past 6 hours.
I had pancakes for the third time in 6 hours about half an hour ago.

But I'm still hungry, so I'll have some more.

While you are eating the pancakes

I am having pancakes for the fourth time in 6 hours.
I am eating pancakes for the fourth time in 6 hours.
I'm stuffing my face again for the fourth time in 6 hours.

after you have finished with this last session of pancakes

I have eaten pancakes for the fourth time in the last 6 hours.
I have had pancakes four times in the last 6 hours.
I had pancakes for the fourth time in 6 hours, not so hungry anymore.

3

It probably means #1, but it could mean #2 in reference to the immediate or near future.  The fact that your sentence establishes a short time frame (six hours) allows this usage.

@Peter and @user3169 say that the sentence must mean now (meaning #1) because “I’m eating pancakes” is present tense.  I dispute this.  The present continuous (also known as present progressive) can be used to refer to events in the near future.

We are having pancakes for supper.

doesn't necessarily mean that we are eating supper right now (and so I’m talking with my mouth full); it can mean “We will be having pancakes for supper this evening.”  Similarly,

Tomorrow, I’m asking my boss for a raise.

and

We’re taking a vacation next month.

are acceptable, clearly understandable examples of using the present continuous to refer to events in the future.

References:

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