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I'm told that 緊 serves the general purpose of '-ing' (according to HK native speaker, who also uses '梗' to represent this idea in text).

This is supported by what I've found online, except with a distinction between continuous (住) and progressive (緊) aspects:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuous_and_progressive_aspects#Cantonese

The same native speaker says there isn't really a difference between continuous and progressive.

Do we use 緊 and 住 to distinguish between continuous and progressive, or is 緊 sufficient to cover all the bases?

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In my opinion, "我著住衫" is odd, un-natural. The nearest is "我著住件衫", which is, well, I have difficulties to grasp the meaning.

About 緊 / 梗: let's say, my friend asks me over the phone:

q﹒做緊乜 what are you doing?

a﹒食緊飯 I'm eating rice --> I'm eating.

a﹒打緊牌 I'm playing mahjong.

a﹒行緊街 I'm wandering in the street.

In these examples, actions are in progress.

My guess, no proof: after years of British influence, we adopted some grammar rules, where we use 緊 to simulate "-ing".

However, sometimes it's tricky. Let's say I accidentally delete all Excel files on my computer, my colleague would say:

呢獲野﹒你死梗啦 ~ you're making really big trouble this time (or, ask someone else for a proper, precise translation).

About 住, let's say I'm late for dinner, my friend calls me:

q﹒響邊? Where are you?

a﹒就到. 食住等啦 I'll arrive soon, eat while you're waiting [for me].

What would you describe it, progress or state?

Another one: 袋住先😼

"To pocket it first", or "to adopt it first".

I don't think that 住 is widely used in colloquial Cantonese. Of course, I may be wrong.

Have fun :)

  • "翻箱倒櫳搵餐懵, 原來我著住嗰件衫" – Henry HO Jul 7 '16 at 4:56
  • "住" is widely used in colloquial Cantonese. When used in prog./cont. aspect, it implies the existence of another action/object when worths attention or is undergoing. On the other hand, "緊" concerns mostly the current action itself. – Henry HO Jul 7 '16 at 5:05
  • Interesting to see different points of view on what seems like a pretty important part of the language. Is there an agreed-upon standard for Cantonese grammar? – Oiohwah Jul 7 '16 at 5:38
  • "我著住嗰件衫" is much better; don't you agree ""我著住衫" is odd? – 水巷孑蠻 Jul 7 '16 at 5:39
  • "我著住衫去便便" vs "我著緊衫去便便" ~~~ lol ~~~~ – Henry HO Jul 7 '16 at 6:17
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In Cantonese grammar, 緊 indicates a ‘progressive’ aspect while 住 indicates a ‘durative’ aspect. Both aspects are part of the ‘continuous’ aspect of English grammar.

佢著緊件外套 (she is putting on an overcoat) describes a dynamic ongoing action of wearing the overcoat. 佢著住件外套 (she has on her body an overcoat) describes a static persistent state of already having the overcoat on her body.

佢拖緊兩個細路過馬路 (he is taking two kids across the road) denotes that “taking two kids” is the main action while crossing the road. 佢拖住兩個細路過馬路 (he is crossing the road with two kids tagging along) denotes that “taking two kids” is merely a subsidiary action of crossing the road.

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Progressive and continuous in Cantonese are different.

我著緊衫。-> I am wearing cloth.

You have not yet worn your clothes, and you try to do so, this is progressive, so you use 緊。

我著住(件)衫。-> I am wearing cloth.

You have already worn your clothes, but you still want to wear it(keeping the status), this is continuous, so you use 住。

"我食緊花生" v.s. "我食住花生睇戲"

For "我食住花生睇戲", eating could be treated as progressive, because the amount of food you have is changing, and not continuous because it does not involve a status change.

But you also express the word "while", and this is an exception which 住 is used instead. So you can have "我食住花生睇戲", but never "我食住花生". Some native speakers may use "我食緊花生睇戲".

So conclusion: 緊 for progressive, 住 for continuous OR (progressive + "while" meaning)

Example when 住 is not used: 去(go), 嚟(come)。

This one is definitely progressive, since there are changes on the action during the progress(location change). People seldom use this to have "while" actions, so the conclusion, 住 is seldom used.

But you can have 唔去住, 唔嚟住, because there will not be changes if you DON'T go or DON'T come.

Example when 緊 cannot be used: 死(die)

One cannot be dying as one could either be dead or alive, there is no progressing status between. So you cannot have "progress".

But you will still see the word 死緊,as in 我死緊份報告出嚟(a very rude expression). That is because here 死 here does not mean "die", but meaning "working one's best (with negative feelings) to do", and this meaning could exist as progressive form.

You have mentioned 梗 in your post. But actually this means "surely", and is put after verbs.

That's why you will see smth like 死梗,but the meaning will be "We are (surely) dead!"

  • "唔好去住" (Don't go ... at this moment.) / "唔好嚟住" (Don't come ... at this moment.) – Henry HO Jul 7 '16 at 4:31
  • This one is a bit different, I shall explain this later, thanks – 超酷爆帅型男 Jul 7 '16 at 4:32
  • "我死緊份報告出嚟" (I am working very hard and exhausting myself to deliver the report.) – Henry HO Jul 7 '16 at 4:34
  • 得啦,我遲啲會再解釋。呢個“死”意思明顯唔同。 – 超酷爆帅型男 Jul 7 '16 at 4:35
  • Also, "我食緊花生" vs "我食住花生睇戲" ~~~~ lol – Henry HO Jul 7 '16 at 4:47

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