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Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||Past Continuous with Arrive|
|Question:||I teach a community adult ESOL class on a University campus, and last night we were briefly discussing the Past Continuous. I put these two statements on the board: I was washing the dishes as you arrived. I was washing the dishes as you were arriving. I believe that the first statement is correct. I also believe that the second statement is correct; my justification is that 'arriving' (or leaving) can be a long process. I had one student (also an EFL teacher) who vehemently disagreed. We're hoping that you can help us resolve this issue. Appreciatively, Adrienne|
|Reply:||Tense and aspect are variable between languages and speaker judgements may vary in one language. Here's my take: "I was washing the dishes as you were arriving." This is fine for me, but you do have to envision the right real world context of a long arrival (maybe driving from the airport or hauling in a lot of boxes/suitcases) "I was washing the dishes as you arrived. " This is the one that sounds weird to me, but others may disagree. I would actually prefer "I was washing the dishes when you arrived. " For me "as" introduces a longer duration event then "when" does. The verb "arrived" usually indicates a point of time (e.g. you walk in the door) so "when" feels more natural. BUT if you are an English native speaker and like both sentences, then that's how your grammar works. Native speaker intuition always overrules "logic".|
|Reply From:||Elizabeth J Pyatt click here to access email|