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Recently l came across the following construction:

The river which is afflicted with black lobsters is losing its fish soon.

I am wondering why the writer used 'is losing' instead of the more natural 'is going to lose'. Would anyone clear up my doubts please?

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'Is losing' could only reasonably be paired with 'soon' when the timescale is far more certain, a punctive (abrupt rather than gradual / continuous) event is being referred to, and in an informal register:

'They're losing their free TV licences soon.'

Soon refers to a punctive event (even in 'he was soon riding his bike again', the change involved, from non-riding to riding, is punctive; we wouldn't say "I am soon riding my bike") and thus usually takes a punctive verb-form. Here,

'The river, which is afflicted with black lobsters, is losing its fish'

or

'The river, which is afflicted with black lobsters, will soon lose all its fish' is needed. –

  • Could I ask why you added the commas around "which is afflicted with black lobsters?" Your addition makes sense if there is only one river being discussed. But, the which-phrase might have been used to distinguish the lobster afflicted river from a different river that is not lobster afflicted, in which case the lack of commas is necessary. – katatahito Jun 14 at 8:37
  • I made a judgement call; the non-defining relative clause seemed more likely. Ignore the commas if you think the black lobster problem isn't as widespread as I've heard it is, or if you assume a more specifically defined subset of rivers than we're told about. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 14 at 8:45
  • The original sentence is just possible if there is a plan to drain the river of its fish and that plan will be implemented soon. And I agree that the version with commas is much more likely. It would be helpful if the OP could provide a link so that we can see the context. – Shoe Jun 14 at 8:46
  • @Shoe: Originally, the sentence is taken from an exercise book for high school students. No context. – Mido Mido Jun 14 at 11:38
  • For those, like myself, who went searching for the meaning of "punctive" See Lawrence and Edwin's comments. – Mari-Lou A Jun 14 at 16:32

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