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When we do homework, we focus on vocabulary

When we do homework, we will focus on vocabulary

When we are doing homework, we focus on vocabulary

when we are doing homework, we will focus on vocabulary

Are these gramatically correct, please? From what I understand, the sentences represent the following:

1, - habitual action, everytime we do homework, we focus on vocabulary

2, - Not sure if this one is gramatically correct

3 - Not sure either

4, - The present tense represents a future action, for example,in doing homework later on today, we will focus on vocabulary.

  • 2
    They're all fine, grammatically. There is no rule against using these constructions together. In all of them, the first clause is habitual action. In 2 and 4, this is projected future habitual action, because of will in the second clause; but that's the only difference. Otherwise they all mean the same. – John Lawler Mar 2 at 21:22
  • can you please enlighten me on the usage of the simple and the continuous tense in these constructions? I am pretty confused with them. – Peter Mar 2 at 21:32
  • Maybe. Doing homework is an activity that takes some time, so the continuous construction (be + Vb-ing) can be used with either the present or past tense of be. Why did you think the second and third ones were ungrammatical? What is the rule you think they might violate? – John Lawler Mar 2 at 22:42
  • They just sound unnatural to me. It seems I am wrong. Nevertheless, consider the first and third sentences. What is the difference between them? For example, If I wanted to express that we have to focus on vocabulary AFTER we have done homework, maybe as part of a different assignment, which one applies? And in contrast, If I wanted to express we have to focus on vocabulary WHILE doing homework, what would the sentence look like? Thank you! – Peter Mar 2 at 22:56
  • If you want to express a special meaning, you should go ahead and express it directly and not count on some verb tense doing it for you. There is no difference between the meanings of (1) and (3), and neither one of them has anything to do with any order of focus. The difference between the progressive construction and its absence has to do with the particular verb involved and what it means and what kind of action it refers to. If it doesn't refer to an action, you can't use progressive. That's all. It's not a different tense; it's an aspect of certain verbs. – John Lawler Mar 3 at 17:13
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The third and fourth would be better if the verbs matched, for example:

When we are doing homework, we should be focusing on vocabulary.

When we are doing homework, we're using the new vocabulary we've learned and applying it in a variety of contexts, to give us more practice with our new words.

You also asked:

If I wanted to express that we have to focus on vocabulary AFTER we have done homework, maybe as part of a different assignment, which one applies?

After we do the grammar lesson, we go over the new vocabulary for about 10 minutes.

And in contrast, If I wanted to express we have to focus on vocabulary WHILE doing homework, what would the sentence look like?

When we're doing our grammar homework, we try to incorporate the new vocabulary items.

Another way of saying this:

While we do the grammar homework, we should be incorporating the new vocabulary.

  • Thank you! Present simple and continuous just confuse me. The basic usage is obvious, but it's cases like these I don't know which to use. For example: When we're doing our grammar homework, we try to incorporate the new vocabulary items. VS When we do our grammar homework, we try to incorporate the new vocabulary items.Are these sentences interchangeable? Thank you – Peter Mar 3 at 10:23
  • @Peter - in your example, it doesn't matter much which one you choose. I'll give you an example of where it matters: I was in the hospital in Denmark, and the doctor came in and asked, "Are we speaking English?" From her point of view, that question fit perfectly, since most of the time she spoke Danish with people, but occasionally she was in a more heterogeneous grouping and then she would speak English. But the question bothered me, because I felt that my identity was that I speak English. I don't just do it today or tomorrow. Does that help? – aparente001 Mar 5 at 6:37

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