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I sometimes encounter situations in which I'm not sure whether to use simple present or present continuous, and sometimes I think both would be correct.

Here's an example:

The Cambodian government is refusing to improve working conditions and enforce local labor law.

or/and

The Cambodian government refuses to improve working conditions and enforce local labor law.

And another one:

Are they taking us for a ride? Because they are making us believe that we are rich and wealthy because we can buy a lot.

or/and

Do they take us for a ride? Because they make us believe that we are rich and wealthy because we can buy a lot.

And a third one:

Fast fashion is having a massive impact in developing countries.

or/and

Fast fashion has a massive impact in developing countries.

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The simple rule as to using whether the simple present or present progressive is that the former is used to talk about more static situations and the latter is used to talk about temporary ones.

1- Assuming that the Canadian government's stand is not a permanent one, we can use...is refusing...

2-They are making us believe... and are taking us for a ride now and not always.

3-This is a new change that fast fashion is having a massive impact in developing countries.

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For the first example, the distinction would be that in the case of 'is refusing', the implication is that the debate as to their refusal is recently happened, as in 'we spoke to them this morning, but they are refusing...', whereas 'refuses' implies that the refusal is ongoing, eg 'we spoke to them last month and again this morning, but the Cambodian government refuses...'


The same can be said for the second example, 'they make' would be used in the context of 'every time we speak to them, they make us...', but on the first time you could say to someone quietly 'they are making us...'.

By the way, 'Do they take us for a ride?' sounds awkward, and it may be more acceptable to construct it like this:

Are they taking us for a ride? Because they make us believe that we are rich and wealthy because we can buy a lot.


In your final example, a newspaper reporting on current events could say 'Fast fashion is having a massive impact...'. 'Fast fashion has a massive impact...' would be used where fast fashion has had a massive impact and still does, so is still present tense. The 'is having' version can be used in this way too, but generally speaking the 'has' version wouldn't be used when speaking about current events.

  • I also think that Do they take us... sounds weird (I'm German), but why? Is there any explanation? – Sebastian Mar 5 '17 at 21:39
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    @Sebastian One use of the English simple present is to indicate an ongoing situation pursuant to a general rule, while the present progressive often indicates a specific, currently ongoing state of affairs. For example, if you're staying at a resort hotel you might ask, "After breakfast, do they take us to the beach?" That is, you want to know whether the hotel generally provides transport to the beach. But if you get on the bus but are unsure of its destination this particular time, you would ask, "Are they taking us to the beach?" [con't]-> – deadrat Mar 5 '17 at 22:31
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    <-[con't] This being English, no rule is ever hard and fast. If someone asks you where you're studying, you may say I go to Boston University or I am going to Boston University, but only the latter is acceptable to answer a question about your current destination. – deadrat Mar 5 '17 at 22:34
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We use the present simple to describe things that are always true, or situations that exist now and, as far as we know, will go on indefinitely. For example - she plays the guitar very well.

We use the present simple to talk about habits or things that happen on a regular basis. For example - I go to work at 7 most days.

We use the present continuous to imply that that a situation is or may be temporary. For example - the food prices are increasing ( these days ).

We use the present continuous to when we talk about changes, developments or trends. For example - More and more tourists are coming to our country.

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