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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.


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)

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