Lesson 22

Continental Airlines: 'do' or 'doing'?

Level: Pre-Intermediate
A Continental jet in the air before the company merged with United Airlines.
Lesson contents:
  • Do vs Doing.
  • Airline vocabulary.
  • An excellent job description based on reality.

Always watch the video several times without subtitles first. Train your ears! Your pronunciation will be much better if you follow this simple rule.

Exercises for this lesson:
How to do the lessons:
  1. Watch the video without subtitles.
  2. Do all the Exercises.
  3. Come back to this page.
  4. Watch the video with English Subtitles. Use the Pause button. People speak fast!

Problems? See general support or ask your question here.

Continental Airlines Customer Representative. Do vs Doing.

Watch this video, then click on Exercise 1

Same video with Precise Subtitles beginning at 00:47



Some teachers might say that I'm taking the difference between the Present Simple and the Present Continuous much too seriously here. Some might even say that I'm not teaching real English.

My friend Siegfried and I were interviewing people at one of the entries to the airport in Atlanta, Georgia, one morning, asking people a variety of questions, including "Where are you going?" as people with suitcases approached the door. I suggested we go into the airport and find some airport personnel and ask them what they do for a living, since we were just beginning to collect "job" videos.

We found a really friendly fellow named Johnson who worked for Continental Airlines before it merged with United Airlines. As soon as he agreed to be interviewed in front of his check-in counter, I set up the camera quickly, and my friend asked him 'What are you doing?', and as you can see in exercise 9, he began explaining his job very simply and coherently, but answering the question Siegfried really meant to ask: 'What do you do?'

I couldn't help myself. I interrupted and said "No, Siegfried, the question we want to ask is What do you do?" After apologizing to Johnson for the interruption, we began again with the "correct question".

The point is simply that in real life, these 2 questions are sometimes interchangeable. After all, he didn't answer "I'm talking to you". He explained what he does.

On the other hand, when teaching beginners and pre-intermediate students, we want to make certain that primary grammatical distinctions are made clear. So in this sense, I don't regret my interruption.