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I am a student learning English. I learned in a class that either present or past progressive can be used to express a negative reaction to a situation. The explanations on the lecture note the professor gave are written as follows:

The present progressive is often used with always to express a negative reaction to a situation.

He's always calling me "Sweetie." I hate that name.

The past progressive with always can also be used to criticize actions we feel are annoying, or which we wish to exaggerate.

At school, he was always getting into trouble.

I am confused because the explanation about past progressive shows that we use past progressive to criticize actions we feel (present) are annoying.

Does the past progressive with always reflect the same tense with the present progressive with always?

  • I don't think the negative connotations are really associated with progressive tense as such - it's more to do with the semantics of the word always. Which are the same if not stronger in, say, He constantly/continually calls me "Sweetie", which I hate. And idiomatically most people wouldn't normally use a continuous form with that example. – FumbleFingers Jun 11 '15 at 13:26
  • "God is such a gentleman, He's always opening doors for me!". – Tushar Raj Jun 11 '15 at 13:28
  • @Hee: emphasis on can be used. – TRomano Jun 11 '15 at 13:37
  • In present-day English combinations of the progressive and adverbials of frequency often convey connotations of annoyance or irritation... See page 19 here: (clu.uni.no/icame/ij18/elsness.pdf) – TRomano Jun 11 '15 at 13:43
  • In American English, "always X-ing" or "forever X-ing" often connotes annoyance or irritation. That dog is always barking. You're always tracking mud into the house. You're forever forgetting to put the cap back on the toothpaste. – TRomano Jun 11 '15 at 14:04
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"In present-day English combinations of the progressive and adverbials of frequency often convey connotations of annoyance or irritation... See page 19 here [Tim Romano]"

In American English, a great amount of time followed with -ing or a continuum , often presents annoyance, exaggeration,complaints or irritation.

For example:

-You're always using the word like.

-You're forever forgetting to emphasize the swells.

-That dog forever barks when I get close.

-Why does she always look at me like that?

This is often how the progressive is used, but it's not a definite rule. The context usually makes it clear why you're using always for emphasis.

  • 1
    He's always helping neighbours with their odd jobs. (Mind you. it could be the missus complaining that he prioritises wrongly;)) – Edwin Ashworth Nov 16 '15 at 23:02

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