Present continuous mistakes, or: English for Tinder users

There’s no better place to find English bloopers than on Tinder.

For some reason many users of this app decide to introduce themselves to potential lovers using a language which they, at best, find it difficult to communicate in. Perhaps the most misleading of these errors is the misuse of the present continuous.

Let’s cut to the chase. On Tinder you have two large groups of Tinder users. One group is passing through: maybe on holiday or abroad on business, perhaps a “CEO”, who is heliskiing, mountain biking and lift/bathroom selfieing* his or her way across the country (while saving the planet and curing world poverty, of course). The other group is looking for a long-term relationship. They live here, go on long hikes in the mountains every weekend and, no doubt being in Switzerland, work in a bank or as a management consultant and eat copious amounts of cheese.

Aha! Already we have some present simple and continuous action here!

Tinder user number one is heliskiing, s/he is mountain biking and s/he is selfieing**

to be (is) + continuous form (-ing) = present continuous

Tinder user number two lives in Switzerland, goes on long hikes in the mountains, works as a management consultant or banker and eats excessive amounts of cheese.

Present simple form (3rd person) lives/goes/works/eats = present simple.

Here the tense used is telling us something; Present continuous is used to show that the action is temporary, a change to the normal state of things. Tinder user number one is staying in Switzerland only for a few weeks. After all, the rainforests in Brazil aren’t going to replant themselves.

Present simple, on the other hand, is used to show an action that is normal and unchanging for example, “The Earth goes around the Sun”, or “On Friday nights Tinder user number two fails to get a date and weeps into his or her fondue”.

So, when someone on Tinder writes “I’m living in Zurich” or “I’m working for UBS” (using the present continuous) a native speaker will assume that this is a temporary situation. They’ll think that his person is probably one of those global citizens who spends a few months in each country. If, however, working in Zurich is a normal situation for this tinder user, their job is not temporary and they’re not planning to move to Mongolia in the near future, “I live/work in Zurich” (present simple) and not “I’m living/working in Zürich” (present continuous) is more appropriate.

Let’s do some Tinder-English exercises. What’s the most likely answer “a” or “b”? (Answers at the end.)

  • I am very sporty so a) I’m mountain biking every weekend, or b) I mountain bike every weekend
  • I like a girl who, a) is going to the gym, or b) goes to the gym.
  • a) I’m looking for a woman who, or b) I look for a woman who, owns a Lambourgini
  • a)I travel the world until I find my prince charming, or b) I’m travelling the world until I find my prince charming.

This is quite a tricky thing to get your head around if it’s new to you and you don’t have an equivalent in your language. I can highly recommend this book as a reference and for more exercises. (You can buy it anywhere) If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.

Answers: b,b,a,b

*Yay! I made a new word!

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

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