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I've got a problem with these constructs. The original sentence looks like the following:

I hear you've got a new job. How do you get on?

Actually, the sentence I wrote above contains an error. The correct sentence is:

I hear you've got a new job. How are you getting on?

So, I don't understand why we have to use the present continuous instead present simple.

As far as I know we use present continuous tense for the temporary situations or the situations that happen at the time of speaking. Could anyone explain this situation in great detail?

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I can't find a duplicate, although this comes close. –  Andrew Leach Apr 24 '13 at 7:02
Thanks for the link. I think this is the answer for my question. Sorry about my stupid mistakes. –  Learner Apr 24 '13 at 7:14

3 Answers 3

up vote 0 down vote accepted

I think it's worth mentioning some of the complexities involved, though many of these were mentioned at the thread Andrew links to.

Choice of tense probably isn't as clear-cut as we'd like to think. For instance, with disease-related examples as mentioned in the link:

I have diabetes /a cold / occasional headaches / frequent headaches.

*I am having diabetes / a cold.

I am having occasional headaches / frequent headaches.

The use of have as a near-synonym of get / take (punctual) as well as possess / suffer from (durative) is doubtless a complicating factor here.

Turning to the multi-word verb get on, we see that again there is idiosyncratic behaviour dependent upon the particular 'object referent' (whether stated overtly or not):

I hear you've got a new job. How are you getting on? [ie with your new job]

I was sorry to hear that you and Bill had a big argument (last month). How are you getting on with him now?

I was sorry to hear that you and Bill had a big argument. How are you getting on now?

and for the do + bare infinitive:

*I hear you've got a new job. How do you get on?

Travelling by bus must be hard for you now. How do you get on? [different sense of get on, of course]

*I was sorry to hear that you and Bill had a big argument last week. How do you get on (with him) now?

I was sorry to hear that you and Bill had a big argument last year. How do you get on (with him) now?

There seem to be subtleties involving not only the continuous / repetitive distinction, but also whether the present state can be regarded as steady (involving how long it has continued).

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So, in my case present continuous and present simple could be used interchangeably, right? –  Learner Apr 24 '13 at 8:28
Actually, I don't see the clear difference between using these two tenses in the sentence above. I've encountered this sentence in the Raymond's Murphy English Grammar in Use book. The unit 3 is describing the difference between present simple and present continuous. So, when we're talking about things that happen at the time of speaking or things that happen temporarily we have to use continuous tense. If we're talking about general things or permanent things, we have to use present tense. –  Learner Apr 24 '13 at 8:53
1. No, Learner - the asterisk before a sentence indicates that it's not generally acceptable. 2. I've tried to point out that what you're claiming as rules ('have to use ...') are really useful guidelines . For instance, even if we accept these 'rules', how "permanent" does 'permanent' have to be? You could do worse than examine previous threads given by a search here for 'present continuous'; a couple of subtleties are pointed out at english.stackexchange.com/questions/65687/… , for instance. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 24 '13 at 10:37

It is a question of what is considered temporary or permanent. The person asking the question could expect an answer "It's tough." If that was the answer, would the listener expect that it will remain tough.

How about "Where are you living now?" Doesn't that break the rules? English sometimes uses the progressive for new situations.

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The point is when you're talking about the changes happening around now you should use continuous tense. Here're some examples:

Is your English getting better?

The population of the world is increasing very fast

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