Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world. LINGUIST is a free resource, run by linguistics students and faculty, and supported primarily by your donations. Please support LINGUIST List during the 2016 Fund Drive.

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: I find the both sentences odd with "as" and much prefer "when," but even then the progressive (or continuous)is odd for me, unless "you" is plural and the arriving of several people occurs over an extended period. For each person, "arrive" happens at a point, but for the group, it occurs over a period. But even so, I don't much care for it; "arrive" typically indicates an event that happens at a point in time, not over an interval. I find, however, that if the event does not occur in the past time, then the use of the progressive with "arrive" is fine, as in: We should be arriving around 10 o'clock. Here, I think that the incomplete nature of the event allows the progressive, and not the character of the verb.
Reply From: Marilyn N Silva      click here to access email
Date: 21-Nov-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Past Continuous with Arrive    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (22-Nov-2013)
  2. Re: Past Continuous with Arrive    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (21-Nov-2013)
  3. Re: Past Continuous with Arrive    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (26-Nov-2013)

Back to Most Recent Questions