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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > past continuous    

past continuous



El-Samreyah
Egypt

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      





yanogator
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.
 
Bruce

30 Dec 2013     



yjlangbroek
Netherlands

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
 
Yvonne

30 Dec 2013     



Zora
Canada

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     



almaz
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     



lilia09
Algeria

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
Morocco

I agree with Bruce and Zora

30 Dec 2013     



torodogo
Morocco

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     



torodogo
Morocco

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     



Jayho
Australia

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
 
Cheers
 
Jayho

30 Dec 2013     



cunliffe
United Kingdom

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

31 Dec 2013