Song of the Week: “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega is a singer-songwriter who was born in California in 1959.  Her eclectic style has marked her career as a folk-inspired musician.

vega-suzanne-4fded150b2829One of Vega’s most famous songs is Tom’s Diner.  In this song, she sings about things she sees while sitting in a diner in New York.

Since Vega sings about actions in progress she uses the present continuous (also called present progressive) lots to explain what she sees!

If you’ve not yet studied the present continuous, take a minute to read this blog post about the present continuous. 

We use the present continuous to talk about actions that are happening in the present or close to the present, but also for other reasons:

  • Repeated actions
  • Changes
  • Future plans

You can see an explanation and example sentences in my Understanding the Present Continuous blog post.  

Task One: Now that you’re familiar with the present continuous, listen to Suzanne Vega’s song Tom’s Diner.  Suzanne uses the present continuous thirteen times.  Can you identify the thirteen times she uses the present continuous?

Task Two: Read the lyrics and find the times that Suzanne Vega uses the present continuous. Write what she says in the present continuous on a piece of paper; you’ll use this for task three.

“Tom’s Diner”

I am sitting
In the morning
At the diner
On the cornerI am waiting
At the counter
For the man
To pour the coffee

And he fills it
Only halfway
And before
I even argue

He is looking
Out the window
At somebody
Coming in

“It is always
Nice to see you”
Says the man
Behind the counter

To the woman
Who has come in
She is shaking
Her umbrella

And I look
The other way
As they are kissing
Their hellos

I’m pretending
Not to see them
Instead
I pour the milk

I open
Up the paper
There’s a story
Of an actor

Who had died
While he was drinking
It was no one
I had heard of

And I’m turning
To the horoscope
And looking
For the funnies

When I’m feeling
Someone watching me
And so
I raise my head

There’s a woman
On the outside
Looking inside
Does she see me?

No she does not
Really see me
Cause she sees
Her own reflection

And I’m trying
Not to notice
That she’s hitching
Up her skirt

And while she’s
Straightening her stockings
Her hair
Has gotten wet

Oh, this rain
It will continue
Through the morning
As I’m listening

To the bells
Of the cathedral
I am thinking
Of your voice…

And of the midnight picnic
Once upon a time
Before the rain began…

I finish up my coffee
It’s time to catch the train

Task Three: There are four instances when we use the present continuous.  For the thirteen times Suzanne Vega uses the present continuous, write why she uses the present continuous.  You can find those reasons in this blog post.
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