Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Are You Doing / What's Happening

Not helpful in attempting to teach English-speaking students Chinese are the terms progressive and continuous, since these words often indicate, in English, the same thing—namely, to be _____ing, whether past, present, or future.

The progressive, according to the horribly named 外国人实用汉语语法 (A Practical Chinese Grammar for Foreigners), looks like
正在 + predicate (verb) + 呢
with any part of the aspect marker being optional. This pattern describes an ongoing action.

Which is different from the continuous, which indicates an ongoing state of affairs, having the appearance of
predicate (verb) +  着
which, in English, can look adjectival.

Two examples:
1. 我正在开窗户。 I'm (in the middle of) opening the window. [progressive]
2. 窗户开着。 The window is (now) open (after already having been opened). [continuous]

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