+5
Hello,

Can I use either past simple or past continuous in these examples?

1.Yesterday at one o'clock I was having/had lunch. (If I use 'had' would it refer to a finished action? As far as I know, past simple can also show that the action was in progress. So 'had lunch' can also mean that the action was in progress. I can use past simple to state a fact or to show that the action was in progress. I think I can use either past simple or past continuous.

2.He was walking/walked along the river when the boat passed/was passing.

3.I was watching/watched TV at 5 o'clock yesterday.

4.When I was coming/came home, I met Ann. (I understand it in two ways; When I was coming- means on my way home I met Ann. When I came home-When I was inside I met Ann, she was inside my house)

5.They were drinking tea when I was coming/came home.

6.When I was going/went to the theatre I met Kate.

Thanks
1 2 3 4
Comments  
1.Yesterday at one o'clock I was having/had lunch. (If I use 'had' would it refer to a finished action?- Yes.
As far as I know, past simple can also show that the action was in progress.-- No.
So 'had lunch' can also mean that the action was in progress.-- No.

I can use past simple to state a fact or to show that the action was in progress-- No.
I think I can use either past simple or past continuous.-- No.

2.He was walking along the river when the boat passed/was passing.-- All OK.

3.I was watching/watched TV at 5 o'clock yesterday.-- Choice depends on the presence or absence of another action.

4.When I was coming/came home, I met Ann. (I understand it in two ways; When I was coming- means on my way home I met Ann. When I came home-When I was inside I met Ann, she was inside my house)-- Right and right.

5.They were drinking tea when I was came home.

6.When I was going/went to the theatre I met Kate.- As with #4
nina: Mr. Micawber has covered it.
Slight typo:

5.They were drinking tea when I was came home.

It happens, when you are 'adjusting' the original text of the poster.
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Maybe in British English it is possible to use past simple instead of past continuous to show that the action is or was in progress? Is it possible?

Eg.,

When I came home, my sisters were having/had tea. From a context I know that this action was in progress so I am sure that I should use 'were having' and it will be 100% correct, but I noticed that some native speakers use 'past simple' instead of past contiuous in situations like this one for an action that was in progress. Why does this happen?

Is it always better to use 'when' with past simple and 'while' with past continuous?
but I noticed that some native speakers use 'past simple' instead of past contiuous in situations like this one for an action that was in progress. Why does this happen?
Can you give us an example? Because the very nature of Simple Past Tense is that no action is(was) occurring!

Is it always better to use 'when' with past simple and 'while' with past continuous?
Again, the nature of Simple Past means that 'when' must be used; and 'while' with Continuous.

But let's start with that example of a sentence you mention above.
Hello,

My examples are;

While he was sleeping / while he slept, my mother came home

I ate /was eating dinner at 7 o'clock yesterday.

I have been told that both past simple and past continuous are correct in these examples. In the second sentence the speaker didn't refer to a finished action, but to an action that was in progress and a native speaker used past simple instead of past continuous.

I am confused Emotion: tongue tied.........

Thanks
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
While he slept, my mother came home.
Where is the POINT in time in the clause, 'while he slept', that would require the use of 'when'?

In terms of grammar, both
I ate dinner at 7 o'clock yesterday.
and
I was eating dinner at 7 o'clock yesterday.
are correct.
If, as you say,'the speaker didn't refer to a finished action, but to an action that was in progress and a native speaker used past simple instead of past continuous', then the native speaker was wrong. But did the speaker say something like:
"I ate dinner between 6 and 7p.m." that you see as an action in progress?
No, the speaker didn't say that either. I will state what I understood and will be grateful if you correct me. So to say that past simple can be used instead of past continuous to show that the action was in progress is wrong. And it will be always wrong in all situations.
As far as I understood; I ate dinner at 7 o'clock yesterday. This is a finished action.

I was eating dinner at 7 o'clock yesterday. I started eating earlier and at 7 o'clock I was still eating. I can't use past simple here.

In your last sentence ("I ate dinner between 6 and 7p.m.") and in sentences like these ones; While he was sleeping/slept, I was reading/read, or When I came home, my sister was studying/studied it is not possible to use past simple in places where past continuous is used, am I right? Past simple is used to refer to a finished action only or to state a fact. I knew this , but I got so confused by some native speakers Emotion: sad(((.

Thanks
I was eating dinner at 7 o'clock yesterday.
I started eating earlier and at 7 o'clock I was still eating. Absolutely correct.
I can't use past simple here. Yes, you could. Let's look at this in the context of a conversation.
Detective (investigating a crime): Could you tell me your whereabouts between 7 and midnight yesterday.
Me: Well, I was eating dinner at 7, and after dinner, till about 10, my wife and I watched a movie on TV....

Here, I have used the Past Continuous because he asked me 'from 7 to midnight', and at 7, I was part-way through the action of eating dinner. The detective is asking, what were you doing between the two times, that is, about a period of time. I could have said something like, 'well, we started eating dinner before 7, and finished about...' (that is, Simple Past). But 7 p.m. was 'in the middle of my having dinner', and so when he gives me a starting time of 7 p.m., it is automatic for me to say, 'well, at 7 I was eating dinner'. It would not feel natural to say, 'at 7 I ate dinner', since I see 7 p.m. as coming part way through the action/event of eating dinner.

Me (to wife of one week): My mother always had dinner ready and on the table as soon as I got home at 5.30. Is that so difficult? First it's 6 p.m., then 6.30, and yesterday we ate / had dinner at 7 p.m. Any later, and we might as well call it supper!
Use of Simple Past, because I am just stating the facts about dinner starting later and later each night.

While he was sleeping/slept, I was reading/read, or When I came home, my sister was studying/studiedit is not possible to use past simple in places where past continuous is used, am I right? Past simple is used to refer to a finished action only or to state a fact. I knew this , but I got so confused by some native speakers (((.

"While I was slaving over a hot stove, he was sitting drinking beer watching some stupid football game!"
Here, I have both verbs in Past Continuous. I want to emphasize that I was slaving in the kitchen for a period of time, and over the same period of time, he was just sitting there, taking it easy.
Compare if I had stated this event in the Simple Past:
"I slaved in the kitchen while he sat in the lounge room."
Can you see that just stating the facts in that way lacks the comparison of my action of slaving for a period of time and throughout that period when I was working hard, all that time he was just sitting there taking it easy.

Past Simple, together with Past Continuous:
"When I came home, my sister was studying, so I couldn't have the TV on till she finished about an hour later. I missed Pop Idol because of her!"
Here, the 'studying' started earlier than when I arrived home, and continued:
..........|<S....................|C|.............>|F..............
where S = she started studying, F = she finished studying.
C = I came into the house. The event of my arrival occurred within the time period of her studying.

Past Continuous, together with Simple Past:
"While I was coming home, my sister studied."
Let's put this in a context:
"It was my turn to cook dinner, and I was running late. I rang my sister to let her know, and while I was coming home, my sister studied / used the time to study for her exams."
Here, I use the Past Continuous because my action is emphasized as taking some time, occurring over a period of time; and the Past Tense to mention what my sister did while she waited for me.
Can you see from the two versions that, how the tenses are used depends on the speaker's view of the events?
If you still have questions, please ask!Emotion: smile
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Show more