The missing past progressive

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Oct 25 04:16:42 UTC 2013

On the Daily Show tonight, Jon Stewart begins with a clip of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responding to Angela Merkel’s demand that the U.S. stop tapping her phone:

‘The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the Chancellor”’

Then Stewart touches one finger and notes: “is not monitoring”, touches second finger and notes: “will not monitor”, and observes "I think you’re missing a tense there.  You got your present progressive there, and you got your simple future, but you’re missing your past progressive, a.k.a. the 'We were not'.   Where’s your past progressive, Jay Carney?"  ("Brought to you by…GRAMMAR", Stewart goes on.)

Shades of Clinton's "There is no relationship", which he later pointed out was strictly true, "depending on the meaning of the word 'is'".

Ben, is Linguist List posting on Carney's missing past?


The American Dialect Society -

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