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Learn English > English lessons and exercises > English test #105501: Two simultaneous actions in the past ...
Two simultaneous actions in the past ...
TWO SIMULTANEOUS ACTIONS IN THE PAST.
In lesson N° 105198 test, we had studied how to build and use the different preterites : the simple past and the preterite in - ing. Do not hesitate to revise this lesson if necessary.
(The simple past is built with a regular verb + ed [or 2d column ] for irregular verbs and is used when a precise action happened in the past.)
(The preterite in - ing is built with was/were + verb + ing and used to express an action in progress at a given time of the past. The preterite in -ing doesn't admit short forms and 'was/were' are not stressed)
Now, we're going to progress, taking interest in particular moments when the 2 preterites are used together or inter-act together : One of these very simple moments, is the expression of two simultaneous actions of the past. (Two past actions happening at the same time.)
ex : He was writing an essay when I arrived and I interrupted him in his work.
If we look at this sentence carefully, it is clear that the 3 verbs don't have the same values. In English, we have two simple pasts and one preterite in - ing.
The two verbs in the simple pasts are describing short completed actions in the past. The preterite in -ing expresses a past and long action which was in progress at the very moment when the other two happened. This past action is like the setting, the background of the short ones. It is the important and 'interesting' action ! The preterite in -ing shows how much the speaker is interested in the action itself, not in its completion.
ex : The sun was shining when we went out.
ex : When their father came back home, the kids were still doing their homework.
The short action (in the simple past) 'interrupts' the long action (in the preterite in - ing)
In the following exercise, we'll meet Patrick ! An incident happened to him and could jeopardize his day ... But he'll get help !
To understand his story, you must choose between the two different preterites, so that the text will finally make sense !
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