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  1. Am I interpreting the results correctly?
  2. Do I interpret the results correctly?

Do they have the same meaning? Are both or just one correct?

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3 Answers 3

Certainly either is correct, and they are equivalent in meaning. You're much more likely to hear #1, though. You might hear #2 in a confrontational context.

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If both of those sentences were coming from a native English speaker, then I'd say that they don't convey the same meanings.

#1 is seeking confirmation that the speaker's interpretation of the results up to this point in time has been correct.

#2 sounds a little strange in this context, but is asking for clarification as to whether the speaker should, as a future action, interpret the results correctly (as opposed to, say, deliberately producing an inaccurate interpretation).

A more natural usage of the construction from #2 might be, for example, if someone is asking for directions: "Do I go left or right?"

Coming from a non-native English speaker, I might interpret #2 as meaning the same as #1, on the grounds that some languages don't distinguish between the present continuous (#1) and the simple present (#2) in the same way as English, so it may be difficult for the speaker to know which form is appropriate in cases like this.

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I would interpret #1 as you did -- asking for verbal confirmation of correct verbal interpretation. However, #2 from a native speaker would be the most natural way of asking for confirmation of non-verbal interpretation, e.g. whether the results were interpreted correctly in a review paper. Present progressive wouldn't be indicated, because the interpreting had already been done. –  Ophiuroid Oct 4 '10 at 1:28
@Ophiuroid: perhaps this is a regional issue, as to use your example, I'd say either "did I interpret..." or "have I interpreted...". Using "do I interpret"... sounds somewhat odd to me as a British English speaker (and former Londoner). –  Steve Melnikoff Oct 4 '10 at 11:50
If I force it, I can get my brain to produce the "should I..." interpretation for #2, but I'd call it exceedingly unlikely in any real-world situation. Though I do agree that the more natural construction is "Did I interpret...". –  Marthaª Nov 10 '10 at 0:43

I think #2 is valid and equivalent to #1, but #2 is less common, not only because English is prone to using the present progressive where other languages would use simple present, but also because #2 is somewhat archaic and sounds more formal. Another common construction with basically the same meaning would be "have I interpreted these results correctly?"

For #2, consider a person making a statement about what they've just heard, followed by "do I understand you correctly?" All of these phrases have the same meaning in context: seeking affirmation.

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Present progressive = present continuous, as far as I can tell. I agree with your comments, anyway. –  Noldorin Oct 3 '10 at 20:40

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