Thursday, 17 May 2018

Dialogues Using Present Continuous Tense

ContentsGrammar in Dialogues → Dialogues Using Present Continuous Tense

Read and understand the following explanations on usage of the Present Continuous Tense and then examine illustrative examples from the works of literature.

The Present Continuous Using: Explanations 

Generally: The present tense regularly expresses something occurring now, in the present. Where continuing action is emphasized, the present continuous (present progressive) is used: The system is working very well. She is sleeping quietly now. For grammar details, see "The Continuous Forms" page.

 I. The Present Continuous expresses an action which is going on at the moment of speaking (see dialogues 1, 2).

 ►Note 1. Stative verbs denoting physical perceptions, emotions, wish, mental processes, etc are not used in the Present Continuous. The Present Indefinite is used instead (see dialogue 3).

 II. The Present Continuous expresses an action going on at the present period of time (dialogues 4, 5).

 III. The Present Continuous may express an action in progress which is simultaneous with some other action or state denoted by the verb in the Present Indefinite. The action in the Present Indefinite is recurrent action that always taken place against the background of the action in the Present Continuous. The use of the Present Continuous makes such sentence emotionally coloured. (See dialogues 6, 7.)


 IV. The Present Continuous is used to express an action which will take place in the near future due to one’s previous decision. For that reason the action is regarded as something definitely settled. (See dialogues 8, 9.)

 V. The Present Continuous expresses actions generally the person denoted by the subject, bringing out his or her typical traits. The usage is rather informal. It indicates that something happens frequently to the annoyance (real or ironic) of the speaker. The Present Continuous in this case imparts a subjective emotionally coloured tone. When no emotional colouring is implied, the Present Indefinite is used to give an objective characteristic. (See dialogues 10, 11.)

 VI. A verb may have several meanings, only one of which makes it a stative verb and therefore incompatible with the Continuous. In its other meanings such a verb may be freely used in the Present Continuous.

 a) The verb to be is used in the Present Continuous to express a certain state or quality peculiar to the person at the given moment. Here to be is close to “to behave” in meaning. (See dialogues 12, 13.)

 b) Some stative verbs when they change their meaning can be used in the Continuous form (In the dialogues below the verb to forget is close in its meaning to “to neglect”; to hear means “to imaging smb. talking” or “to get news from”; to see (the world) means “to travel about the world”). (See dialogues 14, 15, 16.)

 c) A stative verb may be used in the Present Continuous without a basic change in its meaning. Then it expresses great intensity of feeling. It should be borne in mind that this use is rare and can be found in highly emotional context. (See dialogue 17.)

 The Present Continuous Using: Examples from the Works of Literature 


 I. The Present Continuous expresses an action which is going on at the moment of speaking.

Dialogue 1

Ernie is reading a newspaper.

Bessie: Anything in the paper?
Ernie: No.
Bessie: What are you reading then?
Ernie: The news.
Bessie: Racing?
Ernie: No, political.
(W. S. Maugham.  Sheppey)

Dialogue 2

Howard is stooping down by Sheila, a girl of five.

Howard: What are you drawing? (The girl does not answer.) Won’t you show me? The chalks are lovely colours. It looks like a lady.
Sheila (looks up at him): Lady with a dog.
Howard: Where’s the dog? (The girl is silent.) Shall I draw the dog, walking behind on the lead?
(Howard draws a dog, but his dog becomes a pig.)
Sheila: Ladies don’t take pigs for a walk.
Howard: This one did. This is the little pig that went to market.
(N. Shute. Pied Piper)

I (for Note 1).  Some verbs (e g like, believe, contain, remember, think, weigh) cannot be used in the continuous tenses (at least in certain meanings), even to talk about things that are going on just at the moment of speaking. For these, we generally use the present indefinite tense.

Dialogue 3

Ames and Carrie are studying the crowd in the restaurant.

Ames: Look at that woman’s dress over there.
Carrie: Where?
Ames: Over there in the corner – way over. Do you see that brooch?
Carrie: Isn’t it large?
Ames: One of the largest clusters of jewels I have ever seen.
Carrie: It is, isn’t it?
(Th. Dreiser. Sister Carrie)

II. The Present Continuous expresses an action going on at the present period of time.

Dialogue 4

Richard Gordon and Herbert Spellman meet at the bar called the Lilac Time.

Spellman: Aren’t you Richard Gordon?
Gordon: Yes.
Spellman: I’m Herbert Spellman. We met at the party in Brooklyn one time, I believe.
Gordon: Maybe. Why not?
Spellman: I liked your last book very much. I liked them all.
Gordon: I’m glad… What are you doing now?
Spellman: Not much. I get around a little. I’m taking it sort of easy now. Are you writing a new book?
Gordon: Yes. About half done.
Spellman: That’s great. What’s it about?
Gordon: A strike in a textile plant.
Spellman: That’s marvellous.
(E. Hemingway. To Have and Have Not)

Dialogue 5

The Hurstwoods talk about their daughter Jessica.

Mrs Hurstwood: Jessica must have a new dress this month.
Hurstwood: I thought she just bought one.
Mrs Hurstwood: That was just something for evening wear.
Hurstwood: It seems to me that she’s spending a good deal for dresses of late.
Mrs Hurstwood: Well, she’s going out more.
(Th. Dreiser. Sister Carrie)


III. The Present Continuous may express an action in progress which is simultaneous with some other action or state denoted by the verb in the Present Indefinite. The action in the Present Indefinite is recurrent action that always taken place against the background of the action in the Present Continuous.

Dialogue 6

Dorian Gray is introduced to Lord Henry in Basil Hallward’s studio where he sits for his portrait. Dorian takes liking to Lord Henry.

Lord Henry: … Basil, … I am afraid I must go. I have promised to meet a man at the Orleans.**…
Basil Hallward: Stay, Harry, to oblige Dorian, and to oblige me. It is quite true, I never talk when I am working, and never listen either, and it must be dreadfully tedious my unfortunate sitters, I beg you to stay.
(O. Wilde. The Picture of Dorian Gray)
** the Orleans – the name of a restaurant in London

Dialogue 7

What Happens When a Man Starts Cooking?

Vincent Van Gogh: I was just going to fix supper, Christine. Will you join me? ….
Christine: Here, you sit down. You don’t know … about cooking. I’m a woman. … (Some time later she puts dinner on the table.) There, I bet you can’t cook like that.
Vincent Van Gogh: No, … when I cook, I can’t tell whether I’m eating fish, fowl, or the devil.
(I. Stone. Lust for Life)


IV. The Present Continuous is used to talk about future happenings.

Dialogue 8

The two friends are talking in Algernon’s flat. Algernon helps the servant to arrange afternoon tea on the table; he goes over and takes a sandwich.

Jack: … Hallo! Why all these cups? Why cucumber sandwiches?... Who is coming to tea?
Algernon: Oh! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen.
Jack: How perfectly delightful!
(O. Wilde. The Importance of Being Earnest)

Dialogue 9

Dave is joining the International Brigade in Spain.

Dave: … Hello, Sarah. Spain is the battlefront. Spain is a real issue at last.
Sarah: Spain? Spain, Dave?
Harry: Spain?
Prince: Dave is joining the International Brigade. He’s leaving for Spain tomorrow morning.
(A. Wesker. Chicken Soup with Barley)

V. The Present Continuous may express actions generally the person denoted by the subject, bringing out his or her typical traits. It indicates that something happens frequently to the annoyance of the speaker.

Dialogue 10

Jamie is sneering at his father, an old actor.

Mary: … Stop sneering at your father! I won’t have it! You ought to be proud you’re his son! He may have his faults … But he’s worked hard all his life. He made his way up from ignorance and poverty to the top of his profession! …
Edmund: And, for Pete’s sake, Mama, why jump on Jamie all of a sudden?
Mary: Because he’s always sneering at someone else, always looking for the worst weakness in everyone.
(E. O’Neill. Long Day’s Journey into the Night)


Dialogue 11

The grown-up brothers and sisters get together at their mother’s place.

Kay (to Hazel): How are the children?
Hazel: Peter has cold again – poor lamb – he’s always getting colds. Margaret’s all right. Never any trouble with her. She’s been doing some ballet dancing, y’know, and the teacher thinks she’s marvelous for her age. Oh – you forgot her last birthday, Kay. The child was so disappointed.
Kay: I’m sorry. Tell her I’ll make up for it at Christmas.
(J. B. Priestley. Time and the Conways)

VI. There are some verbs that are not used in the continuous tense in certain of their meanings (so called “stative verbs”). However, in its other meanings such a verb may be used in the Present Continuous (to be = “to behave” in meaning, to forget = “to neglect”; to feel, to think, = “to have an opinion”; etc).

Dialogue 12

Miss Matfield, Miss Sellers and Turgis are young clerks at an office; Miss Sellers is sweet on Turgis but he ignores her.

Miss Matfield: You know, Turgis, I do think you’re beastly rude to little Miss Sellers. … you’re being very rude to somebody who is prepared to like you a good deal. And when people really like you you ought to be specially nice to them and not rude. …
Turgis: All right. But I don’t see what I’ve done to her. She takes offence too quickly, that’ it.
(J. B. Priestley. Angel Pavement)


Dialogue 13

After an air-crash some English boys find themselves on an uninhabited island. They set out to reach the top of the mountain. It is quite dark already and they carry only sticks.

Jack (to Ralph): Coming?
Ralph: I don’t mind … (The two start up the mountain, then Ralph stops.) We’re silly. Why should only two go? … We’re being fools.
Jack: Windy?
Ralph (irritably): Course I am. But we’re still being fools.
Jack: If you don’t want to go on I’ll go up by myself.
(W. Golding. Lord of the Flies)

Dialogue 14

Paul talks with the girls and forgets the bread in the oven.

Miriam: By the way, aren’t you forgetting the bread?
Paul: By Jove! (Flings open the oven-door; there’s a smell of burned bread.)
Beatrice: Oh, golly! This is what comes of the oblivion of love, my boy. … My word, Miriam! You’re in for it this time.
Miriam: I!
Beatrice: You’d better be gone when his mother comes in.
(D. H. Lawrence. Sons and Lovers)


Dialogue 15

The idea that Hurstwood will soon get a job takes hold of him. It will mean the end of his dreary state.

Hurstwood: I met John B. Drake to-day. He’s going to open a hotel here in the fall. He says that he can make a place for me then.
Carrie: Who is he?
Hurstwood: He’s the man that runs the Grand Pacific in Chicago.
Carrie: Oh.
Hurstwood: I’d get about fourteen hundred a year out of that.
Carrie: That would be good, wouldn’t it?
Hurstwood: If I can only get over this summer, I think I’ll be all right. I’m hearing from some f my friends again.
(Th. Dreiser. Sister Carrie)


Dialogue 16

Wilfred didn’t step into his father’s shoes; he works on a tea plantation in West Africa; now he is at home on leave.

Wilfred: Dad, are you sorry I didn’t go in for something scientific? That I’m not a doctor, for instance?
Dr Kirby: Not if you are happy as you are.
Wilfred: Well, I don’t know that I’m happy.
Dr Kirby: I didn’t mean that. Silly word. Reasonably contented, let us say.
Wilfred: Well it’s not bad, you know.
Dr Kirby: After all, you’re seeing the world. More than I’ve ever done.
(J. B. Priestley. Eden End)


Dialogue 17

Robert Shannon takes an interest in natural history. One day the pupils see two butterflies getting inside the classroom. 

The teacher: Why two?
Robert: Because they’re mating, sir.
The teacher: Are you suggesting that butterflies have a love life?
Robert: Oh, yes, sir. They can find their mate a mile away by a particular fragrance. It comes from their skin glands. It’s like verbena.
(A. Cronin. The Green Years)