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I am walking or I walk?

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Dionna

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When writing in present-tense, is it ever appropriate to write something like:

I am walking toward the school.

Or should we always write:

I walk toward the school.

Does the former create more of a sense of immediacy than the later?
#1 - May 29, 2015, 01:18 PM

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In some cases it's necessary to use the present continuous (e.g. "am walking"). For instance, "I am walking toward the school when the porcupine falls out of the sky" means something different than "I walk toward the school when the porcupine falls out of the sky."

I've had critique partners who insist on the simple present (e.g. "walk) in virtually every situation, but I kind of like the present continuous when it's used judiciously. And yes, I think it can add immediacy.
#2 - May 29, 2015, 01:44 PM
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I agree with Melissa.  :yup Sure, it sounds more immediate. It depends on the situation but I see no reason to avoid that across the board. And using her example, I think "I walk toward the school when the porcupine falls out of the sky." sounds a little bit weird. I think "walking" would sound more natural in that case.
#3 - May 29, 2015, 02:02 PM
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I also agree with Melissa. People get over zealous about removing "to be" verbs.
#4 - May 29, 2015, 02:54 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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Also, the voice has to be taken into account. A 1st person narrator will probably use whatever phrasing sounds most natural in a given instance.
#5 - May 29, 2015, 05:00 PM
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What Melissa said.  :yup

... People get over zealous about removing "to be" verbs.

Also-- I double ditto that^.
#6 - May 30, 2015, 08:53 AM
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Melissa
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People get over zealous about removing "to be" verbs.

Triple ditto.
#7 - May 31, 2015, 06:15 AM
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And they like to chop out -ing words too, without really knowing what they are and how they function in a sentence.
#8 - May 31, 2015, 02:34 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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 I can visualize a character walking with a phone in hand  :phone, relaying her location to the caller on the other end, "I am walking toward the school." :walkdog
#9 - May 31, 2015, 03:00 PM

Dionna

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Just realized that I didn't say thank you for all of your replies! I am feeling grateful!!  :dogwalk
#10 - June 24, 2015, 02:01 AM

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What an interesting subject! I had never thought about how a subtle change like this can impact the meaning of a whole sentence!
#11 - August 14, 2015, 07:24 AM

Dionna

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And they like to chop out -ing words too, without really knowing what they are and how they function in a sentence.

Hi Lill! What is the technical grammatical terminology for sentences structured like this?
#12 - December 13, 2015, 03:37 AM

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It's one of the peculiarities of English, actually. A lot of other languages near places people speak English just have one present tense form. (Ich gehe, Yo camino, etc.) The only thing I can think of to compare it to, grammatically, would be something like the concept of aspect in Slavic languages (you can put a prefix on a verb to indicate if it's to be a one-time completed action, or something repeated and habitual). It's a nice feature of English, because they do mean different things, and also lend a different flavor or voice.

The only time I think that -ing verbs can be problematic is if you intend a series of sequential actions, but the way you've written it grammatically literally means the actions are happening at the same time. "Slamming the door with both hands, I juggled flaming knives all the way down the hall" isn't physically possible (unless you're juggling with your...feet??) Those things have to happen sequentially. You can, however, be smiling while you're slamming. Or yelling. Or thinking. But things that are physically impossible? That's when the -ing stuff gets in the way and is a no no. (Unless your character can do magic, naturally!) I suspect that it's this kind of situation that gets taken out of hand, and then people start following a rule and applying it indiscriminately to EVERY situation where an -ing word is present.
#13 - December 13, 2015, 06:37 AM

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