Jul 122009

We received the following question from one of our readers:

We use the present continuous tense in a complex sentence when the subordinate clause begins with when and the whole sentence refers to the future.

Would it be incorrect to say: Before I watch TV, I’m doing my homework.

There are two answers:

1)  If you are referring to the present, to what typically happens, then the answer is “NO”, it would not be correct. In this case, you would say “Before I watch TV (every night), I do my homework.”

2) If you are referring to the future, such as tomorrow or tonight, then the answer is “YES AND NO”. The possibilities are:

a) “Before I watch TV (tonight), I’m doing my homework.” or –

b) “Before I watch TV (tonight), I’m going to do my homework.”  Notice that in this case we use the present continuous form ” ~ going (to)” + the base form of your main verb.

I hope this answers your questions.

Thank you,

The ESL Help! Desk