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I am confused on using "act for/on behalf of someone".

What is the difference between "The law firm acts for me in this legal action" and "The law firm is acting for me in this legal action". I have found that both may mean that "currently the law firm is acting for me" rather than "usually the law firm acts for me".

For example: After the hearing, Holt, who acts for the twins, said: ‘The award will make a very significant difference to the twins' quality of life. (from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/act)

A Dublin-based firm of solicitors are acting on behalf of the parents of over 100 children with autism. (from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/act)

Thanks for your help in advance.

  • Might your Question not seem more comfortable somewhere like English Language Learners? You appear to be trying to make something simple much more complicated than it need be. Who doubts “The law firm acts for me" and "The law firm is acting for me" are equivalent? Both might indeed mean "currently the law firm is acting for me" and why is that a problem? “Usually the law firm acts for me" is different how, exactly? – Robbie Goodwin May 12 '18 at 18:20
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I'm not sure why you think the habitual interpretation is not valid for the non-progressive case (acts). Also, this has nothing top do with the specific verb phrase to act for someone; the same two options exist for to represent someone.

[1]  i  Mr. Johnson is representing Ms. Doyle in this matter.
      ii  Mr. Johnson represents Ms. Doyle in this matter.

One difference between i and ii is that i also has a futurate reading, more or less meaning Mr. Johnson will represent Ms. Doyle in this matter. (The futurate reading of ii is possible if the representation is a scheduled event.)

However, if the futurate reading is excluded from the context, then the only difference is that i stresses that the representation is occuring at the present moment, whereas ii stresses that the representation is an ongoing thing. To see this, try adding Today only at the beginning of i and ii.

[2]  i  Today only, Mr. Johnson is representing Ms. Doyle in this matter.
      ii  ?Today only, Mr. Johnson represents Ms. Doyle in this matter.

Notice that i sounds natural, but ii is a bit awkward. However, ii is fine if it is presented as a news item or a running commentary, which is a usual thing with the present tense.

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