Picture action description

From Teflpedia
In this picture, the dancers are dancing.

Picture action description is the English usage of the present progressive to talk about an action occurring in a picture (such as a photograph).

For example, consider the photograph (right). We can say:

  • In this picture, the dancers are dancing.

Because we can see the photograph, we talk about as though the actions in the photograph were happening now. Of course, it’s not a live image feed, and the photo was taken in the past; the photo right dates from 2017.

It may be clear from context, e.g. pointing, that we’re talking about a picture.

Be careful with be; we can use copular be in the progressive; e.g. "they are being silly". But not stative be; *"they are being on the stage" isn’t.

Pedagogy[edit | edit source]

Generally, learners tend to acquire this usage without explicit instruction. Indeed, trying to explain it may just introduce confusion.

CCQs[edit | edit source]

  • Is the photograph in the past time/present time/future time? (the photo was taken in the past).
    • Alternatively: Is the drawing drawn in the past/ present/future? (past)
  • Do we know what these people are doing at this very moment right now? (no)
  • What do we typically use the present progressive for? (actions happening now, i.e. progressive now).
  • Is this the same usage or is it different? (Different)