Do you ever get annoyed about something that a person does or says often? More than likely, the answer is yes. We are all human, after all.
As we spend long periods at home, for example, some of our loved ones’ behaviors might become annoying. Maybe you wish they would give you more space or privacy, for example. Or maybe they make too much noise, use your belongings or rarely do their share of cleaning.
Listen to a short exchange between friends:
How are things going at home?
Mostly fine. But my brother is getting on my nerves. He is constantly leaving dirty clothes in the bathroom. And he’s always hogging the computer.
The speaker used present continuous verbs to show that these things happen often – and that she finds them annoying.
On today’s Everyday Grammar, we will explore a few forms English speakers use to talk about the present and the past.
Let’s first discuss the present and stay with the present continuous.
Sometimes, English speakers use the present continuous verb form to express annoyance or complain about a repeated action or habit. Alone, this verb form does not express negative emotion. It must be used with adverbs that mean “all the time,” such as "always" “constantly" or “continually.”
Let’s listen to part of the earlier exchange again. This time, listen for the verbs and notice where the speaker puts the adverbs. As a reminder, the present continuous verb tense is formed with is/are plus a verb ending in -ing:
He is constantly leaving dirty clothes in the bathroom. And he’s always hogging the computer.
Did you find the verbs? They are “is leaving” and “is hogging.” And, the speaker put the adverbs in between the verbs, such as in the phrase “is constantly leaving.”
Wish + would
Another way we casually complain about present behavior is with the form wish + would. Listen to a speaker talk about a current problem:
I wish you would take your health seriously. You have not visited the doctor in over a year.
For some English speakers, the wish + would sentence structure may be a little difficult because it contains a noun clause. You can learn more about “wish” clauses in earlier Everyday Grammar programs. [LINK]
Note that we can use the form wish + would in positive sentences with “would” or negative sentences with “wouldn’t” to express the same basic meaning. Here’s an example:
I wish you wouldn’t ignore your health. You have not visited the doctor in over a year.
Now let’s talk about ways English speakers express annoyance about past behavior.
We can use a continuous tense — this time the past continuous — to say that something aggravating happened often in the past.
Suppose the girl who lives with her brother moved to some other place. So, she was able to talk about her annoyance as a past problem.
Listen for the verbs in the next example. As a reminder, the past continuous verb tense is formed with was/were + a verb ending in -ing:
He was constantly leaving dirty clothes in the bathroom. And he was always hogging the computer.
Did you find the verbs? They are “was leaving” and “was hogging.” Again, with this verb tense, adverbs like “always” and “constantly” are needed to express a negative emotion about repeated behavior.
Kept + gerund
Finally we move to the past form kept + gerund. As a reminder, a gerund is a noun ending in -ing.
You may remember an earlier Everyday Grammar program that talked about keep + gerund, which has a few uses, such as to express that something that happens again and again [link]. For today’s program, let’s focus on kept + gerund for expressing annoyance at a repeated past action.
Listen to an example and pay attention for the form kept + gerund:
Our dog kept chewing on everything. He was becoming a real nuisance until we brought in a behavioral specialist.
Did you find the form kept + gerund? The gerund here is “chewing.”
Kept + gerund has a similar meaning to the past continuous when expressing annoyance or aggravation about a past problem. And, we sometimes explain how we solved whatever problem we were facing.
Well, that’s our program for today. Join us again soon for another lesson on grammar for everyday speaking and writing.
I’m Alice Bryant.
Alice Bryant wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
annoying - adj. causing someone to feel slightly angry
get on (one's) nerves - expression.
constantly - adv. happening all the time or very often over a period of time
hog - v. to take, keep or use something in a way that prevents other people from having or using it
negative - adj. expressing dislike or disapproval
phrase - n. a small group words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence
clause - n. a part of a sentence that has its own subject and verb
aggravating - adj. causing annoyance or exasperation
habit - n. something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way
focus - v. to direct your attention or effort at something specific
nuisance - n. a person, thing or situation that is annoying or that causes trouble or problems