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13/04/2011

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Barrie  England

There is, I suggest, a difference between the act of sending and the acts of congratulating, presenting and thanking. In those three the act is indeed done with the words themselves. The congratulator or the presenter or the thanker doesn’t have to do anything other than say the words for the act to be performed: to say is to act. It doesn’t seem quite the same with sending. We can’t say 'I send' and hope that by doing so the deed will be accomplished. We have to do something in addition, such as placing a document in an envelope, putting a stamp on it and posting it. 'I am sending', on the other hand, either describes what the sender is doing at the time of writing or what might happen in the future. It doesn’t imply that the words alone are enough to complete the task.

That, however, does not explain why 'I attach' and 'I enclose' are possible when 'I send' isn’t. Although both require further action beyond the words themselves, such as placing additional documents in the envelope, is it possible that they too are in some way different acts from the act of sending? Sending is a more comprehensive operation than either, and I wonder is isn’t the use of ‘I am sending’ to express the future, rather than to describe what is currently happening, that predominates.

Peter Harvey

You are right that the act of sending is not accomplished by the words themselves but the two are conceptually united in that the writing is done solely for the purpose of sending the communication. It is also worth mentioning that the continuous aspect is also used in I am writing to inform you that …, where the writing is itself the communicative act.
I cannot agree that this is the use of the present continuous with future meaning. That is found in the case of plans or arrangements that have a time definition: I’m having a party on Saturday; She’s going to the dentist’s on Wednesday; We’re sending out a mailing next week.

Barrie  England

I realised as soon as I posted it that my interpretation of ‘I am sending’ as expressing the future was, in this instance, fanciful. Perhaps, then, ‘send’ has to be in the progressive form because sending is not in itself a complete act and it is therefore grammatically imperfective. Attaching, on the other hand, is a complete act and is grammatically perfective, and thus permits the inflected form of the present tense. ‘Send herewith’ is OK because it’s more or less synonymous with ‘attach’?

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