The sentence is:

He {the verb to make} rude comments about my clothes every time I see him!

I filled in:

He makes rude comments about my clothes every time I see him!

My teacher said it was wrong and because of the exclamation mark it should be:

He is making rude comments about my clothes every time I see him!

I would like to know who is correct.

  • 2
    In this context, the present continuous is characteristic of "Indian English". The issue has been addressed on ELU (for example, “We are confirming your order within 24 hours.” vs “We will ~ ”), but it's really a better fit on English Language Learners Sep 21, 2015 at 15:56
  • 7
    Disregarding the relative acceptedness of the present continuous in Indian English of this type of construction, it is without a doubt the case that your teacher was completely and utterly incorrect in telling you that your version is ungrammatical. It is perfectly grammatical and normal-sounding, even in Indian English. Your teachers version is accepted (to a certain degree) in Indian English, but would be ungrammatical in most other dialects; but your version is grammatical everywhere. Sep 21, 2015 at 18:31
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I'm having a hard time accepting this point of view. The use of "every time I see him," dictates simple present. It may be grammatical but the correct meaning is not being conveyed, and will also lead to laxness in other uses and areas of time logic when speaking English. It's not a matter of local usage or dialect, it's a matter of the internal logic of the English language. Sep 22, 2015 at 1:03
  • @JanusBahsJacquet also, this is a student learning the language so he can communicate not only with native speakers but speakers from Singapore, Korea, Italy, etc. many of which have learned the correct usage, and will either not understand or make a judgement about him / her based on his / her English ability. Sep 22, 2015 at 1:10
  • 1
    @michael_timofeev I think you're misunderstanding either me or the question. This guy’s teacher told him that “He does X every time I see him” is ungrammatical, because does must be in the present continuous. That is, in every single dialect of English I've ever come across, utterly incorrect. “He does X every time I see him” is completely grammatical. Whether “He's doing X every time I see him” can also be grammatical in some contexts/dialects is a different matter—my point was that the version singled out as incorrect is the one that is beyond all doubt grammatical. Sep 22, 2015 at 1:16

6 Answers 6


OP's teacher is completely mistaken in supposing the exclamation mark affects choice of tense.

Except in an extremely contrived context, only Simple Present he makes rude comments is idiomatic for OP's specific example, but consider this closely related example...

1: You drink whisky every time I see you.
2: You are drinking whisky every time I see you.

...where Simple Present #1 implies some kind of "causal" connection between me being there and you drinking (perhaps you always want us to get drunk and make a social occasion of your visit).

On the other hand, Present Continuous #2 strongly implies that you were already drinking before I even arrived - because you drink a lot, regardless of whether I'm around or not.

In OP's case it's unlikely "he" is continuously disparaging the speaker's clothing even when she isn't present. Pragmatically, we assume the rude comments are actually addressed to the speaker (or at least, intended to be "overheard" by her).

Note: this answer addresses "Standard English" usage. It's certainly not uncommon for speakers of Indian English to use Present Continuous in OP's specific context, but I suspect this tendency arises because of the way tenses work in "native" languages such as Hindi. I'm not aware that competent English teachers in India would actually "promote" overuse of the progressive tense, and I don't believe there's any recognized "Indian English authority" endorsing such usages.

  • I'm really trying to understand case number 2. If I understand you correctly, wouldn't it make more sense to add "lately?" as in "Lately, you're ..." Sep 22, 2015 at 12:58
  • @michael_timofeev: No. Introducing another temporal aspect such as lately has no relevance here. It would be fine to say, for example, I haven't seen him since he moved away ten years ago, but when he lived next door he was drinking whisky every time I saw him. Sep 22, 2015 at 13:47
  • well, we agree to disagree...perhaps this is a usage I have never encountered...to me it should be "...he drank whisky every..." Not sure why past progressive is needed or what it does to the meaning (other than make me confused.). Maybe someone else can help me see the light on this. Sep 22, 2015 at 14:18
  • @michael_timofeev: Taking the example in my comment, the Simple Past ...he drank whisky every time... implies he drank at those specific times when I visited (but not necessarily at other times). The "progressive" version ...was drinking... implies his drinking was more of a continuous activity, so at any given moment (including those times when I happened to see him) he was probably drinking/drunk. Sep 22, 2015 at 15:11
  • ok, I can see what you're saying...you're expanding "every time" into a larger section of time. "Every time I saw him, he was working on someone's car." How does this relate to op? If the sentence were back shifted, I would accept it... Still seems better to keep it in the simple present or past. Sep 22, 2015 at 15:26

"He is making" means it's happening right now -- not "every time I see him," but at this very moment. (There are other uses, but that's what "he is making" suggests here.)

"He makes" means it happens at times.

Here are some other uses of present progressive, from Really-Learn-English.com.


For habitual actions and events (as here) use the simple present in English.

  • Clean and clear. Can't argue with that. Sep 22, 2015 at 2:04
  • “Every time I see him, he's either chatting up some bird or getting blind drunk.” I'm describing a habitual action, but using the present progressive tense. How come?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 23, 2015 at 9:42
  • @Mari Lou A "Every time I see him, he's either chatting up some bird or getting blind drunk". The first verb is in the simple present implying a habitual, repeated or common action; the second verb is in the present progressive because that is what is he is up to then and there, when(ever) I see him. Sep 23, 2015 at 16:14

The difference between

He makes rude comments about my clothes every time I see him!


He is making rude comments about my clothes every time I see him!

is that in the first sentence, the person always makes comments about my clothing whenever he meets me (it's a habit).

This is why the simple present is used; but in the second sentence is making does not express an action happening at the moment of speaking but is used to indicate annoyance.

  • The second sentence works better if you say: "He is always making rude comments..."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 23, 2015 at 9:32
  • -1 for saying that simple present #1 implies a habit. Generally speaking, a "habit" is something someone does often (or all the time), which would be more appropriate for present continuous #2 in OP's context (since the implication there is he's always mocking my dress sense, whether I'm there to see/hear him or not). Sep 23, 2015 at 15:59

Your teacher's answer is incorrect, regardless of where you speak English or what "dialect / accent" one is using.

When you add the phrase "every time I see him." it makes the idea a simple present idea. Simple present is used for facts and regular events. For example:

I work for Sony. I live in Taipei. I like Maroon 5. The plane leaves at 5 pm.

It is a common mistake for non-native speakers to use the present continuous to talk about current facts in their life or around them. For example:

I am living in Beijing. I am working at Samsung. The bus is leaving at 3 pm every day. I am living at the W hotel.

If you use phrases such as "all the time." "Every day." "Always," "once a week," etc. you should use the simple present.

The exclamation mark is irrelevant, and in my opinion is bad writing. In my opinion it should only be used in dialogue. It adds intensity that might not otherwise be apparent from the language, and is obvious to a reader why it was added. In your example it is not at all obvious why there is an exclamation mark.

Your answer is correct. Ask for your score to be adjusted.

  • I think that you can correctly use I am living in, I am working at when there is a context for its use. If you are answering the question of a civil servant, and they ask where do you live, you are correct, the response should be, I live in _. However if you are speaking with an acquaintance that you have not seen for a while, and they have a context of your past, then the implication is that you are telling them what you are doing currently. So, I am living in ___, implies your current state. If you haven't changed then you would say I still work at ___.
    – AMR
    Sep 22, 2015 at 5:56
  • @AMR the only way "I am living..." makes sense is if two vagabonds meet each other and ask "Where are you staying right now?" People don't use "living." In any case, this is a rare exception that doesn't help the OP. As for "working," if both people know each other one can ask "Where are you working these days?" The answer can be "I'm working at Bill's Restaurant." if the responder feels it's temporary. If not, they will answer, " I work at..." In which case the the other person might say "Decided to settle down for a while, eh? Congratulations." Sep 22, 2015 at 7:04
  • 2
    -1 for ... you must use the simple present. It's completely idiomatic to say, for example, You're eating sweets every time I see you with the implication that you're probably eating sweets always/a lot of the time (whether I'm around or not). On the other hand, You eat sweets every time I see you strongly implies a causal connection between me being there and you eating sweets. In OP's context there's almost bound to be a "causal" connection, which is why only simple present is appropriate. Sep 22, 2015 at 11:45
  • @FumbleFingers I don't understand...you start by saying -1 for must but you end by saying "...only sp is appropriate." It sounds like you're contradicting yourself. Besides, how are we supposed to answer..."you're both right?" I'm trying to help the op learn a grammar idea so they can use the idea again...trying to help them sound more natural so they have an easier time communicating. Sep 22, 2015 at 12:11
  • @FumbleFingers must changed to should. Sep 22, 2015 at 12:20

He makes is correct in American and most other types of English. It's the simple present tense, which can be used to express one action that recurs (in this case, since he does it "every time").

Similarly you'd say "He does it every time" and not "He is doing it every time".

He is making is the present continuous tense, which is used to describe a thing that's happening right now. So this would be considered incorrect to many English speakers.

Like someone above noted, it might be common in other places, so it does depend on where you are and what type of English is being spoken/taught. It has nothing to do with the exclamation mark, though.

edit: I wrote some garbage answer earlier about "passive voice", was helpfully corrected by Dan Bron, and have updated accordingly.

  • 4
    Don't know how the passive voice is pertinent to the discussion: he is making is no more passive than he makes.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 21, 2015 at 17:05
  • @DanBron You're right. I'm not sure what I was thinking. Mental hiccup! Do I delete this?
    – Yee-Lum
    Sep 21, 2015 at 22:30
  • Nah! Just fix it to remove the language about passive voice. Give a different explanation.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 21, 2015 at 22:38
  • Is there ever an instance where a punctuation mark would have an effect on the wording of a sentence? I'm baffled by OP's teacher's claim that "because of the exclamation mark" the phrasing should be a certain way.
    – Yee-Lum
    Sep 21, 2015 at 22:54
  • No, his teacher hasn't a leg to stand on. +1 for editing your answer in response to feedback, btw.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 21, 2015 at 23:01

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