English Grammar


Hi there,
Somebody can tell me why I have to use the Present Progressive in the first part of the following text and the Present Simple in the second part.

It is 7:45 in the evening, and Philip Cheeter run is running late for his date with Swedish super-model Ivana Bümbüm. Cheeter gets into his car and drives to the florist to buy some petunias.


  • At 7:45 PM Philipe is running late. It's a state of being that lasts for some time.

    He gets into his car. That doesn't last, it's a sudden action.
    He drives to the florist. It's a performative action, not a lasting one.

    Just my opinion, Jorgito.
  • You're absolutely right, AhQ. Those are the reasons why we have to use those tenses in those places.
  • I beg your pardon when I have to throw in an addition to this topic. The term 'performative' has a definite meaning and is located in the realm of linguistics. A typical 'performative speech act' would be: [i]"Hereby I christian this vessel 'MS Bounty'".[/i] (Annotation: That act didn't turn out as the auspicious act as it was meant to be, as we know today, but anyway.)

    A performative speech act, in the linguistical/philosophical sense, is an utterance that constitutes an action. Another example would be a priest saying [i]“Hereby I declare you man and wife.”[/i] By uttering these words, the act of marrying a couple is performed, hence the speech act constitutes an action and is therefore a 'peformative speech act'.

    Driving to the florist is an action that is performed, but it is not a performative act in the strict meaning of the term. The reason why it is in the simple past in this case lies in the state of Philip running late, which is described at the given instance (7.45 p.m.). The sentence given does not refer to the action of driving to the florist at that very moment, but to the plot of Philip running late in which the other actions are embedded. Therefore these two actions are not in Present Continuous.

    If we put instead the focus on Philip driving to the florist, and this action would be taking place at the given instance, it would be in Present Continuous: [i]"It's 7.45 in the evening. Philip is driving to the florist."[/i] Even the much shorter action of getting into his car can be uttered in Present Continuous, in case were are watching Philip getting into his car at this or that very moment, even though the action does not last very long: [i]“Look, Philip in getting into this car.”[/i]
  • My goodness! How lucky we are with numbering among us a gasket that doesn't let bad toughts spread all around.

    Thank you, Head Gasket, for correcting both errors, the word misuse and the grammar mistake. My opinion proved to be twice wrong.
  • I'm not sure I understand well :
    - do you mean "performative action" is not the appropriate word ?
    - and even an action that doesn't last should be described with the "present continuous" ?.
    I must confess that "performative action", "present continuous" and even "head gasket" didn't belong to my vocabulary...thank you ! I can now see what they mean ;)

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