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    naweewra is offline Member
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    Default Past Simple or Past Continuous: When the teacher [looked/was looking] out the window

    Hello,

    Are both Past Simple and Past Continuous verb forms acceptable in the following sentence?

    "When the teacher [looked/was looking] out the window, he slipped a note to his friend."

    a) When the teacher looked out the window, he slipped a note to his friend.

    To me, the Past Simple form implies a sequence of action. The teacher looked out the window. Then he slipped a note to a friend.

    b) When the teacher was looking out the window, he slipped a note to his friend.
    c) While the teacher was looking out the window, he slipped a note to his friend.

    Can the action of looking out the window be the background if "look" is in the Past Continuous form? Or for the sentence to make sense, I would have to change from "when" to "while"?

    Do "when" and "while" in these sentences differ much in meaning?

    Thank you.

    Nawee

  2. #2
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Past Simple or Past Continuous: When the teacher [looked/was looking] out the win

    Quote Originally Posted by naweewra View Post
    Hello,

    Are both Past Simple and Past Continuous verb forms acceptable in the following sentence?

    "When the teacher [looked/was looking] out the window, he slipped a note to his friend."

    a) When the teacher looked out the window, he slipped a note to his friend.

    To me, the Past Simple form implies a sequence of action. The teacher looked out the window. Then he slipped a note to a friend.

    b) When the teacher was looking out the window, he slipped a note to his friend.
    c) While the teacher was looking out the window, he slipped a note to his friend.

    Can the action of looking out the window be the background if "look" is in the Past Continuous form? Or for the sentence to make sense, I would have to change from "when" to "while"?

    Do "when" and "while" in these sentences differ much in meaning?

    Thank you.

    Nawee
    If you want to imply a sequence of events, write "When/After the teacher had looked out (of) the window, he slipped a note to his friend". If the actions were simultaneous, "While the teacher was looking out (of) the window, he slipped a note to his friend" is correct.

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