I'm using a book to teach my students but in one example it says you can't use "say" in a participle clause because it's not continuous e.g.

  • Joanna is a woman who says what she thinks,


  • ... woman saying what she thinks.

However, in an exercise after the explanation it has this:

  • I found a note in red saying "get into the car..."

Can anyone explain why I can use the -ing form in this example?

  • 2
    That's a poor description and analysis by the textbook, as you report it. Perhaps it's written for native speakers instead of language learners, or vice versa. The two contexts need and use different presuppositions. Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 15:15
  • I don't see a problem in general with the progressive use of "say". It wouldn't be appropriate in your example, though, because "say" is being used as a general statement of fact, not to express some action in progress.
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 16:55

1 Answer 1


What a written document or a sign says is a permanent characteristic of it.

There was a notice saying KEEP OUT.

When we speak of 'what a person always says', we mean their typical form of expression. When Joanna 'says what she thinks', she doesn't always use the same words! As your book says, it is not continuous.

  • ie the 'woman' example shows an iterative situation, the 'note' example a stative/durative one. Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 15:21
  • Thanks! Yeah I was thinking it could be similar to something like "have/having" which can have two different meanings. Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 15:29

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