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Dear teachers,

Could you please tell me the difference between the following couple of sentences?

1) a) We watched TV all night.
b) We were watching TV all night.

2) a) I have been cutting onions, this is why my eyes look red.
b) I have cut my finger when I was cutting onions. (correct sentence ?)

3) a) It has rained all night.
b) It has been raining all night.

4) a) I have been writing letters all morning.
b) I have written letters all morning.

5) a) Look at the mess my paper is in! Who has been reading it?
b) Look at the mess my paper is in! Who has read it?

Thanks a lot,
Hela

PS: What do I need to do if I want to sfind out a previous post?
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Comments  (Page 2) 
Thank you CalifJim, that's very nice of you.

One more question: Can I say "I CUT my finger WHEN I was cutting onions"? ? simple past + WHEN ?

See you,
Hela
Yes, but that's not as satisfactory as "I cut my finger while I was chopping onions."

One of my changes has nothing to do with what you are focusing on: The use of the same verb "cut" in both clauses didn't seem to work for my ear!

The second change is probably more relevant to what you are asking. "while" generally introduces a past progressive, not "when".

Nevertheless, "simple past + WHEN + simple past" is possible: I cut my finger when I picked up the knife. I cut myself when I began to chop the onions. I learned English when I studied in Paris. I apologized when I realized he was right. I finished quickly when I looked at the clock and noticed the time. Mireille was right when she said that Didier had lied.

CJ
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2)
b) I have cut my finger when I was cutting onions. (correct sentence ?)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Both the CGEL and Michael Swan point out that the present perfect is, on rare occasions, used with a past time adverbial. It is very uncommon and the circumstances are quite restricted. I just read yesterday in the newspaper, where PM Tony Blair did this very thing.

Generally, the present perfect is used to introduce a past event that the speaker wants to make current or add importance to. Further discussion of this now introduced event is then NORMALLY done so with the simple past.

So the norm could be,

I've cut my finger. [introduction with PP] I did it when I was cutting onions. [switch to somple past]
Thank you CalifJim and Just the Truth for your explanations.

1) I have just noticed though that Just the Truth used WHEN with the progressive, is it OK?

2) Do you consider the following as SIMULTANEOUS ACTIONS or not?

a) I left the house when Ann arrived. (simultaneous or consecutive ?)
b) While I was making coffee Ann arrived. (simultaneous or consecutive ?)
c) I was cooking dinner while my brother was washing the car. (= simultaneous)

Are there any other ambiguous cases like a) and b) ?

All the best,
Hela

Hela:

1) I have just noticed though that Just the Truth used WHEN with the progressive, is it OK?

>>>>>>>>>>>>

JTT: I believe that the sentence you are referring to, Hela, is actually your sentence. I just copied it.

My only point then was that on RARE occasions, in very limited circumstances, the present perfect is used with a past time adverbial.

As to your question,

Is it okay to use WHEN with the progressive? ,

yes, it is. Try plugging such a phrase into an Advanced Google Search.
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"when" with the progressive is OK, yes, but "while" is probably more often used with the progressive if the focus is on simultaneity.
When I'm feeling lonely, I call a friend.

a) sounds like Ann's arrival was your cue to leave. (consecutive)
"I was just leaving when Ann arrived" makes it more simultaneous.
b), c) the "while" makes them simultaneous.

CJ
Thank you to you both.

Kind regards,
Hela

It rains in the morning

Present tense

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