Welcome to
ESL Printables, the website where English Language teachers exchange resources: worksheets, lesson plans,  activities, etc.
Our collection is growing every day with the help of many teachers. If you want to download you have to send your own contributions.





ESL Forum:

Techniques and methods in Language Teaching

Games, activities and teaching ideas

Grammar and Linguistics

Teaching material

Concerning worksheets

Concerning powerpoints

Concerning online exercises

Make suggestions, report errors

Ask for help

Message board


ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > past continuous    

past continuous


past continuous
read this sentence please and tell me if it �s correct: While he was watching TV, she "did" the laundry. Is "did" correct or it has to be "was doing"? I think it depends on the meaning..so if she started and finished doing the laundry while he was still watching TV then "did" is correct...what do you think?

30 Dec 2013      

United States

You �re right that both options are correct, and the choice depends on the meaning you want to convey.
The continuous tenses emphasize the process and the time period involved. If it only matters that the laundry was done, and not that she spent time doing it, then "did" is the best choice. This option considers the completion of the task to be important, not the process.
If you want to emphasize that both of them had something going on during that time period, then "was doing" would be the better choice.

30 Dec 2013     


I �ve always understood that the connector "while" emphasizes the fact that both actions were taking place at the same time. So in that case "was doing" is the only correct option in that sentence.
When a combination of Simple past and Past Continuous is used in one sentence, one action is interrupted by an other [mostly of short duration], e.g. While[When] I was doing the dishes, the telephone rang.

There �s a nice video on You Tube explaining this: Past Continuous Trance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?QissjB_6Prg&list=PL3476C202DC56B9BD&index=14

30 Dec 2013     


Bruce is correct. It can be both options - as long as the sentence makes sense. And your logic is totally correct, she could have finished the laundry while he watched TV, or she could have been doing it and still not finished washing or drying the clothes.

30 Dec 2013     

United Kingdom

What Bruce and Linda said ^   Both are grammatical depending on the context. �She � might have finished the laundry while �he � was still watching TV, so the simple past would be appropriate. 

(A wee heads up here, by the way: there �s no such thing as a "continuous tense" in English � but there is a continuous, or progressive, aspect)

30 Dec 2013     


the connector "while" doesn �t necessarily emphasize the fact that both actions were taking place at the same time. "While" introduces a long action and in this case ,it �s "watching TV".

30 Dec 2013     

L. habach

I agree with Bruce and Zora

30 Dec 2013     


all the grammar books i know are strict about the fact that �while � dictates that the actions must be taking place at the same time and thus should be in the progressive forms. here we either follow the grammarians or create another grammar depending on our intentions. I dont think �did � is correct according to English grammar

30 Dec 2013     


the simple past can be used with �while � like in this example �while he was watching tv, his mother opened the door. � the problem here is that �doing the laundry takes sometime not like opening the door. we can �t just do the laundry; we must spend sometime doing that. I guess

30 Dec 2013     


Which grammar books are you using torodogo?
My grammar books illustrate that past continuous and simple past can be used together with �while�, describing it as an action that happened during a longer action.  It can be a shorter action that happened in the middle of the longer action or it can be an interruption.
I mainly use:
The Good Grammar Book-Swan&Walter
English Grammar in Use - Murphy
How English Works-Swan&Walter

30 Dec 2013     

United Kingdom

And here is a nice ppt for teaching past continuous (aspect).

31 Dec 2013