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They were fighting Nazis for three days.
They fought Nazis for three days.

The first sentence is said to be the correct usage of past progressive tense. But why can't we use it in the same manner in present progressive tense?

It would be wrong to say:

We are fighting Nazis for three days?

The correct form is:

We have been fighting Nazis for three days.

Why do they differ in past progressive and present progressive?

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  • The past tense of "We have been fighting for three days" is not "We were fighting for three days", but "We had been fighting for three days."
    – MorganFR
    Aug 5, 2016 at 13:30
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    Pretty much a duplicate of this question, which is also about fighting Nazis for three days. ell.stackexchange.com/questions/97431/… Aug 5, 2016 at 13:44
  • Pretty much? It's the identical question about the identical sentences. This exact question must be featured in an Indian text or site, cf. this and this. Aug 5, 2016 at 18:34

1 Answer 1

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English present tense, especially progressive present, can be used to describe planned activities in the future, especially when qualified with a time specification.

I'm buying groceries later today.

So this sounds like it's describing something that is being planned.

We are fighting Nazis for three days = We will be fighting Nazis for three days.

To describe a continuous activity that started in the past and is still continuing now, have been X is the right construction.

We have been fighting Nazis for three days (impiles we still are fighting Nazis).

If you are no longer fighting Nazis, simple past or had been X can be used.

We fought Nazis for three days.

We had fought Nazis for three days.

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