Why is it wrong to say they build a house next to mine? The explanation i got was nobody is building a house every year or every month next to yours.

The correct answer was they are building a house next to mine.

SO, my question is why cant I use simple present to state it as a fact?

I can use simple present to state a fact, right? Ex: I am 6 feet tall(fact). Ex: I like apples(fact). Ex: They build a house next to mine(not a fact anymore)?? Why is it wrong??

  • 1
    If what you mean is that a house is currently being built, then yes, it's wrong. There are situations where "They build a house next to mine" is correct for accounts of past or hypothetical events, but I don't know exactly how the grammatical construction works (at least not well enough to explain what's going on). Nov 26, 2015 at 11:55
  • Possible duplicate of This year has been being great?. Stative verbs resist continuous tenses (*I am owning a car / *He is having a cold) whereas dynamic usages don't (They are building a house / we are having a party). Nov 26, 2015 at 11:56
  • Because the fact you are 6ft tall is always true, the fact that you like apples is always true, but that your neighbours always build a house next to yours is not true, see Ricky's answer below. On the other hand, the construction of a house is usually temporary, there's a beginning, a middle and an end; but why would you think someone building a home is not a fact? Consider the question: A "What do you do for a living?" B "I build houses".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 26, 2015 at 13:32
  • The verb "build" is an accomplishment verb and doesn't really support the "fact" (stative) use that you have given. Build is an "activity" that has a definite endpoint. It takes time to build something. Build is supported by the progressive tense: "They are building a house next to mine." If you want to use "build" in the fact sense, i.e. the fact that they do this activity regularly, then you need to put the verb into the present simple tense but with a general object as it's complement, "houses." Build is not a "fact" verb but an accomplishment or activity verb. Nov 26, 2015 at 17:37
  • Dynamic verbs in the simple present tense often denote habitual actions. "They build a house next to mine" would mean that they habitually build a house next to yours. What makes this even funnier is that it is ONE house that is habitually built. This is impossible, unless, as Ricky explains, the house is burnt down and rebuilt over and over again on the exact same site. "They build houses next to mine" is slightly more acceptable, but there comes a time when space 'next to your house' runs out. Nov 27, 2015 at 6:43

4 Answers 4


It can work in some contexts. Such as:

I have these neighbors. I tell them they should stay as far away as possible. What do they do? They build a house next to mine.


Do you know what those idiots do every summer? They build a house next to mine. I burn it down as soon as it's finished, and the following year they just do it all over again.

The first example is just colloquial talk in the present tense, where it's substituting (the tense) for the past.

The second example is a very, very special situation.

Generally, however, the correct way to say it is

They're building a house next to mine. Just to spoil my view, I think.

  • @DRF: Merci bien.
    – Ricky
    Nov 26, 2015 at 13:10
  • @Ricky After reading all the responses, i am getting a little confused why the first example is correct. According to Ale on the post bellow, to build a house is not a regular action but a temporary action. So, shouldn't it be something that is in process of or it is finished? I mean there are only really two options: one they built a house next to mine or they are building a house next to mine. Thanks.
    – user148281
    Nov 26, 2015 at 17:06
  • @user148281: When they tell me a Southern climate might have a soothing effect on my nerves, I go to the tropics. When you tell me your neighborhood is the best possible in the world, I build a house next to yours.
    – Ricky
    Nov 27, 2015 at 4:11
  • 1
    I really like your examples. I think maybe pragmatics can explain them.
    – Lambie
    Nov 30, 2022 at 18:00

They build a house next to mine.

in any practical context is used as present non-finite, not usable in simple present context. Its non-finite contexts is mostly in the subjunctive sense.

Non-finite speech is modular. In modular functions, the module could be deployed within a range of contexts regardless of time, number, gender, without modifying its basic structure.

Difference between a tense and the context

For examples, the verbal noun painting as well as the gerund painting.

The Mona Lisa is a well-known painting. The tense of the word painting in such a sentence is in the present continuous. However, the context of its use is as a verbal noun.

He is very good at painting fake Mona-Lisa's. The continuous present form in this sentence is used in the context as a gerund.

Gerund ending in -ings?

What are non-finite contexts

Non-finite means unbounded in time, number, possibly gender. The most well-known and oft-used non-finite is the infinitive.

  • We came here {to die}.
  • You need {to stop sleeping around}.
  • They will be told {to stop sleeping around} tomorrow.

What is subjunctive

Subjunctive is a non-finite context operating in imaginary time. Most of the time, subjunctive contexts are sufficiently constructed using past tenses. Use of subjunctive form

However, subjunctive context is not a tense. It too, like the "real world" context, can have past, present, future, simple, continuous or completed tenses.

For examples,

  • Dad: What do you do when a stranger tries to abduct you?

    • Boy: I kick him in the shin.
  • Mafia boss: What do your brothers do when you go to jail?

    • Mafiosi: They take care of my family.
  • What do compulsive relatives do when they each want an inch of my inheritance? Well, they build their houses next to mine.

  • What does the govt do when they fail to grab my land by eminent domain? They build a bridge over my property.

  • Subjunctive here is a no-go term.
    – Lambie
    Nov 30, 2022 at 17:57

The present tense is often used with active verbs to indicate habitual or expected actions. The technical term for this usage is Generic, and generic verb constructions are very common.

Generic verb phrases can use any tense, actually; but the present is most common.

  • This summer he is reading Freud in the original German.
  • I was writing recommendation letters all last month.
  • She drove her car to work last year, but this year she uses her bike.

Like the progressive construction, however, generic usage is only possible with non-stative verbs. States are already continuous and thus can't be repeated.

  • Every time he moves, he rents a house. (move and rent are active, so they can be generic)
  • *Every time he moves, he owns a house. (own is stative, so it can't be generic).
  • I'm trying to understand this. Would I be correct in saying that in the sentence the OP posted there is a conflict between the lexical aspect of "build" and its grammatical aspect in the sentence? I'd like to understand because this is a common occurrence in class...students using present simple for things that we would normally use the progressive tense, and not accepting our use because in their minds things can be a habit or fact or regular activity. Nov 27, 2015 at 2:34
  • @michael: I have no idea whether you would be correct in saying that because I don't know what you would mean by "a conflict between the lexical aspect of build and its grammatical aspect". As for what you see in class, I know nothing at all of whether you are a teacher or a student, what class is being taught, what language it's being taught in, who the students are, or who "we" are. And there isn't any progressive "tense"; progressive is a construction. English only has two tenses -- present and past; everything else is a construction of one kind or another, and there are lots. Nov 27, 2015 at 19:44

Present simple is used for regular actions or for a fact that is always true. If you say:

They build a house next to mine,

it's a temporary situation, not a regular action. Actually they can build as many houses as they want, but they'll stop doing it, eventually.

Here's where present continuous comes to describe the situation:

They are building a house next to mine.

  • The temporary situation and not a regular action explanation is very helpful for me. Thanks.
    – user148281
    Nov 26, 2015 at 16:26

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