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Hello,

I read that the use of past simple or past progressive depends on which tense a speaker wants to use and that all the sentences below are correct. Only when you want to show that the action was in progress then you use past continuous, but past simple is also correct.
'While I did my homework, he rested.' Or 'While I was doing my homework, he was resting.'
'I read all day yesterday.' Or 'I was reading all day yesterday.'

But is it also possible to use either of them in these examples?

While he was sleeping/slept, somebody stole his car.
While I was reading/read he was cooking/cooked.
She was always coming/came late.
He was constantly talking/he constantly talked.

They say that both tenses can be used, but sometimes an action that is used in past simple can be understood as a finished action and not as an action in progress. For example; I ate dinner at six o'clock and I was eating dinner at six o'clock. Mother was watching TV at six, Mother watched TV at six. Do you agree that either can be used here too and that past continuous can be used only if you want to show that the action was in progress?

Thanks
Comments  
I ate dinner at six o'clock and I was eating dinner at six o'clock. Mother was watching TV at six, Mother watched TV at six. Do you agree that either can be used here too and that past continuous can be used only if you want to show that the action was in progress?

Yes, I agree - if you change 'can be used only if...' to 'is used when...'
A Past Tense verb is a FACT, and facts do not occupy any period of time.
"He ironed his shirt."
Pictorially, this is:
<........................................................his.........................life.......................................>>>
<.......................|.........................NOW.......................................>>>
where | = the event, 'ironed'
compare with the Past Continuous:
<........................................................his.........................life.......................................>>>
................|<....was..ironing...>|..........................NOW.......................................>>>

We cannot conceive of the actual performance of an action without seeing this as occupying a period of time.

The next question is, why use the Past Simple, or Past Continuous in a sentence, when either is possible?Emotion: smile
e.g. as in your sentences:
Mother was watching TV at six.
Mother watched TV at six.
You could say:
While he was sleeping OR while he slept, somebody stole his car.

The most natural way to say the next one would be:
While I was reading, he cooked dinner.

She was always coming late. She always came late.

The last one is correct as it is.

"I was eating dinner at six' as a statement makes me wonder what happened next, UNLESS it's a reply to a question. When were you eating dinner? I was eating dinner at six. That is perfectly normal, however if you just come out and say "I was eating dinner at six", then something would need to follow.

I was eating dinner at six WHEN an old lady punched me in the face.
If I was simply telling someone when I ate dinner, then I'd say: I ate dinner at six.

My mom watched TV at six.
My mom was watching TV at six (when the dog pooped on the floor.)
(while dad cleaned up the dog poop.)
(right before the old lady punched me in the face.)

You get the idea. Hope that helps.
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My book says that ' Mother watched TV at six' as well as 'I ate dinner at six' depending on the context may also mean that these actions were in progress, but 'watched TV at six' and 'ate dinner at six' can also be finished actions. I am not a native speaker unfortunately, but I do like continuous forms more. Emotion: rolleyes

Oh, and that statement from my book is it right? I think it is.

Thanks
' Mother watched TV at six' as well as 'I ate dinner at six' … may also mean that these actions were in progress.

At some point in the past, the events/actions must have 'been in progress' in order to have occurred!. But a Past Tense verb states a FACT, and there are no time boundaries for the actual verb.
e.g. He died.
All we know from this is that he is no longer alive. We do not know when in the past he died, and it does not refer to event being in progress. To do that, we use the Past Continuous:
(When I arrived), he was dying.

What text are you using?
Thank you very much for your explanations Emotion: smile. I was using a Russian exercise book.




It gives examples and sometimes explanations, but not always that's why I was a little confused.
I noticed that while either form can be used, in some cases one of them is still a better choice.If I am not mistaken, of course.
Eg.,
When I came/ was coming, my parents were having/had tea.
He was doing/did his homework when I entered/was entering the room.
While we were coming/came home, our car broke down.
As I was coming/came here I met your brother.
While he was talking/talked to his bother, I was waiting/waited for him.

Can I use 'was talking' in the last sentence and 'waited' instead of 'was waiting'? In most sentences if there is past simple in the first part of the sentence it will be in the second part of the sentence too. Parallel actions, I guess.

Thanks
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When I came, my parents were having tea.
When I came, my parents and I had tea.

He was doing his homework when I entered the room.

While we were coming home, our car broke down.

As I was coming here I met your brother.
When I came here for the first time, I met your brother, but I haven't seen him since.

While he was talking to his brother, I was waiting for him.
I waited for him while he talked to his brother.

In most sentences if there is past simple in the first part of the sentence it will be in the second part of the sentence too. Parallel actions, I guess.

No. Compare these sentences, and note the differences in meaning:
When I arrived, he left.
and
When I arrived, he was just leaving, so I was able to grab him and ask about the plans for the weekend.
and
As I was arriving, he was just leaving and couldn't stop to talk.