Wednesday, August 3

The Big Difference between “I’m chatting” and “I chat”

"Chat" now has a special meaning in computing. 

If you're on the Elementary level or higher, you should already have an idea about these two sentences: “I’m chatting” and “I chat.” 

The first talks about an action that’s happening right now or exactly at this time, while the second talks about many or repeated actions.

For example,

I’m chatting with my friends NOW. 

I chat with my friends EVERY NIGHT. 

I OFTEN chat with my friends. 

(If you're still not sure about the difference between the two, you should read If a foreigner on Facebook asks you "What do you do?"... for a quick review.)

As you might know, a learner's knowledge of grammar is different from actual practice, when finally speaking in real situations. In fact, in the real situation, many non-native speakers still get confused between the Be V+ing sentence ("I am chatting") and the Present Simple sentence ("I chat"). They usually mix these up.

But you must remember the crucial difference, because it can make the meaning of your sentences wrong.

For example, imagine that you're talking to a kid in a swimming pool…

image courtesy of stock.xchng

(All the sentences in the dialogue below are right.)

                Q: Are you sleeping?

                A: No, I’m not sleeping!!!

                Q: Do you sleep?

                A: Yes, I sleep.

                Q: Are you eating?

                A: No, I’m not eating!!!

                Q: Do you eat?

                A: Yes, I eat.

                Q: Are you wearing shoes?

                A: No, I’m not wearing shoes!!!

                Q: Do you wear shoes?

       A: Yes, I wear shoes. 

Can you see the difference?

In fact, non-native speakers often overuse the Present Simple sentence this way:

                Q: Are you working? 

                A: Yes, I work. X   

                                                  -- or –
               Q: Will you join? 

               A: Yes, I join. X

Why? Why do non-native English speakers make this mistake?

Because the Present Simple is the easiest sentence to make in English. It's also the most natural and most convenient to use. 

But as you can see, it’s a bad habit to use this sentence all the time. Because it has a different situation and it can actually make the meaning of your sentence strange. 

(If you're ready for a deeper discussion of the “Be V+ing” sentence, please turn to “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” – A Simple But Confusing Question in English. Registered & Protected

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