Sunday, February 06, 2005

Present Continuous Lesson in the Classroom

As an English teacher, it’s always a little awkward when you have to contradict your textbook. But occassionally you do find things in the book that just don’t make sense and you feel obligated to point them out. However, this can sometimes be confusing to the students, for you can almost see them thinking, “well, if it’s not right, why’s it in the book?,” and then in the next breath, “so maybe this idiot doesn’t really know anything about the English language after all.”

I have a friend here who wants to start learning some English, so I was looking through an elementary grammar book at a present continuous lesson, since that can be a good place to start with beginners. But I was a little baffled to see, under the heading “verbs not normally used in the present continuous,” the verb have. That’s not right, though, is it? We use have quite a bit in the present continuous. For instance, I imagine that half the postcards sent back to the U.S. or Canada from here use have in present continuous statements like: “We’re having a wonderful vacation here in Mexico!,” which might then be followed by: “…although your father is having a hard time getting rid of his headache from all of his studying.”

There are plenty of other situations where you might see have in the present continuous, for example in statements like: “I’m having second thoughts about donating that kidney,” or: “Kids, those two monkeys aren’t fighting; they’re having sex.” Tabloid headlines use the form as well, so you don’t want your students getting confused when they’re in the checkout like and they see “Brad Pitt having affair with another woman” in big, bold letters. Plus, you hear it all the time when people use present continuous to talk about future plans, like: “Josh is going to be fixing up the kitchen, and later he is having a party!” or, “I can’t believe my best friend is having another baby.” So in the end, I guess I’m having doubts as to whether I want to use that present continuous lesson after all.

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