In my last "how to talk about..." post, I gave you some tips on how to talk about your normal routine. Today, I'm going to do the complete opposite, and show you how to talk about when your routine changes. The holiday season is generally a time when our routines disappear completely, which can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. So, here are some grammar and vocabulary tips to help you explain how your routine changes.
When we want to show that something is temporary or is different from our normal routine, we usually use a continuous tense. The continuous tenses, besides describing what is, was, or will be happening at a certain point in time, are also used to show temporary actions or changes in our every day routine. These tenses each have their own set of time words.
*For more specific grammar information on all of these tenses, check out this post.
The present continuous is often used to talk about something temporary or different that is happening at the present. It is also often used to show contrast with our regular routine.
I'm travelling a lot this month!
(I usually travel less.)
This Christmas, I'm having lunch with my husband's family.
(I usually have lunch with my family.)
*Make sure to specify when the action is happening, otherwise your listener will think that it is what you are doing right now.
The present perfect continuous is the perfect tense to talk about recent changes in your routine. It is often used when we want to express for how long something has been happening.
I have been eating so many sweets lately!
(I don't usually eat so many, but it's Christmas...)
I haven't been working out so much these days.
(I usually work out every day, but it's Christmas...)
She hasn't been sleeping well recently.
(Usually she sleeps well, but she's stressed about Christmas.)
One more strange thing that we do in English is choose to use the present simple or the present continuous to subtly tell our listener that we think a situation is permanent or temporary. We generally do this with the verbs live and work.
I live in Italy vs. I'm living in Italy.
Both of these sentences are grammatically correct, but, if I choose to use the continuous tense, I'm telling you that I consider it a temporary situation that one day will change.
We often follow a sentence like this with a reference to time: I'm living in Italy for a year, but then I'll go back to Spain.
On the other hand, if I tell you that I live in Italy with the present simple, it means that I don't expect the situation to change anytime soon. Now, everything can change, even the most permanent of things, but when choosing between present simple or present continuous, you are telling your listener how you feel about your current situation.
The same is true for the verb work:
He works in a bank vs. he's working in a bank.
With the present simple statement, I'm telling my listener that he has a stable job in a bank, and doesn't expect it to change anytime soon. The present continuous statement leaves room for deductions: perhaps he doesn't like his job and is looking for a new one, or perhaps he is just doing an internship for 6 months, or maybe he is notorious for changing jobs every few months.
So now you know how to make all kinds of excuses for your lack of routine during this holiday season, like eating too many sweets and not exercising enough. Don't sweat it*, you have plenty of time to get back into your regular routine in January!
*Don't sweat it: don't worry about it.