Author Topic: Is this correct: "All agents continue to be assisting customers"?  (Read 3690 times)

na2rboy

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Hi everyone, At work I have people telling me that this sentence is correct:

"All available agents continue to be assisting other customers."

Is it correct? If not, what rule is it breaking?

In my head, it feels wrong. Maybe because I am desperate to make it "All available agents are still assisting other customers."

Thanks!
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 07:25:52 AM by Joe Carillo »

Joe Carillo

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Re: All agents continue to be assisting customers
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2012, 07:55:23 AM »
No, I don’t think this sentence you presented is structurally and syntactically correct:

“All available agents continue to be assisting other customers.”

It’s one of those iffy, officious, and convoluted statements that get established in the workplace despite being grammatically faulty.

For one, the verb phrase “continue to be assisting other customers” uses the verb “continue” in a very awkward way. In this construction, the phrase “to be assisting other customers” is actually an infinitive phrase—a noun form—functioning as the direct object of the verb “continue.” However, in such constructions, the verb “continue” happens to have a grammar peculiarity: it’s one of those verbs that require the verb embedded in the infinitive phrase to drop the “to” and become what’s called a “bare infinitive.” Below are some examples of how this bare-infinitive transformation works for infinitive phrases that serve as direct object of the verb “continue”:

“continue to be working beyond midnight” becomes “continue working beyond midnight”
“continue to be seeing ghosts” becomes “continue seeing ghosts”
“continue to be teaching algebra” becomes “continue teaching algebra”

When we apply this bare-infinitive transformation to “All available agents continue to be assisting other customers,” the sentence gets streamlined as follows:

“All available agents continue assisting other customers.”

Even in this corrected construction, however, the sentence remains semantically questionable. It’s a fuzzy statement because the verb “continue” doesn’t yield a logical, real-life sense. Indeed, what does it mean when “All available agents continue assisting other customers”? By using the verb “continue,” the statement evokes a wrong sense of a permanent state instead of just a temporary one. Indeed, “continue” is actually a wrong choice of verb in describing the situation at hand. The correct sense will emerge when that verb is replaced by either “are busy” or just “are” in these grammatically airtight alternative constructions:

“All available agents are busy assisting other customers.”
“All available agents are assisting other customers at the moment.”

Although the first statement above is grammatically and semantically perfect, I’m leery of its use of the word “busy,” which I think can rub the listener the wrong way. To my mind, the more palatable statement from a customer relations standpoint is the second sentence. Try saying it aloud to check if my perception is right:

“All available agents are assisting other customers at the moment.”

Now, as to this suggested version of yours, “All available agents are still assisting other customers,” I’d say that it’s a great improvement over the flawed original statement. But when you place yourself in the shoes of the customer, would you prefer it over the improved version that I came up with above?   
« Last Edit: March 29, 2012, 07:50:27 AM by Joe Carillo »