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What should I use, "Why aren't you listening to me?" or "Why don't you listen to me?"

Example:

I'm chatting with my friend, who seems to just ignore some issues:

Bill, why aren't you listening to me, when I tell you about my problem?

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In what context? –  simchona Dec 25 '12 at 9:21
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These questions are used to ask different things, so please provide a context that allows us to know why you want to ask one of them? There's no way that we can give you a meaningful answer without more information. –  user21497 Dec 25 '12 at 9:25
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'Why aren't you listening to me?' would mean I am saying something and you are not listening. 'Why don't you listen to me?' would mean you never listen to me or you don't usually pay attention to me. Simple present tense, the second sentence above, indicates regularity, habit or something that is usually always true while present continuous tense indicates continuity of an action at the time of speaking. Barrie England has explained it well. –  user32480 Dec 25 '12 at 9:30
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Bill, why aren't you listening to me, when I tell you about my problem? –  Alex Ya Dec 25 '12 at 9:30
    
Could you please add more context? What are you trying to say? Emotion, etc. -- those can really influence the answers here. –  simchona Dec 25 '12 at 9:42
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1 Answer

The present progressive construction is typically used to refer to an event occurring at the time of speaking. The present tense is typically used to refer to something which is generally the case. Why aren't you listening to me? asks why the person addressed isn’t listening to what the speaker is saying now. Why don't you listen to me? asks a question about the habitual inattention of the person addressed.

That, at least, is the general position, but English verb forms are sensitive to the situation and context in which they are used, and the choice between the two in your example would depend on the relationship between the two speakers and on what has gone on previously in the conversation.

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