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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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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.

Appreciatively,
Adrienne

Reply: This really isn't a disagreement about English grammar, but about the nature of travelling and the like. Most commonly, arriving is a momentary process -- first you were on the way, and now suddenly you are here. In that case, only the first example would do. But there could be circumstances in which "arriving" was itself a long-drawn-out process, say if it meant making landfall in a boat after a long voyage, mooring, lowering sails, then picking one's way up from the shore to the house: if you called all that "arriving", which someone might, then the second example would be all right. I think both your pupil and you essentially agree about grammar, but you have a kind of arrival in mind which isn't on his mental horizon (and it would be quite unusual, so that is very understandable).

Geoffrey Sampson
Reply From: Geoffrey Richard Sampson      click here to access email
 
Date: 22-Nov-2013
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Past Continuous with Arrive    Marilyn N Silva     (21-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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