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  1. #1
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    difference between past continous and past perfect continuous

    could you please tell me the difference between these two sentences:
    1- I was watching TV whne the pbone rang
    2- Ihad been watching TV whne the phone rang
    thank you in advance

  2. #2
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Re: difference between past continous and past perfect continuous

    1. I was watching the TV when the phone rang >> At the moment the phone rang I was sitting in front of the TV watching a programme.

    2. I had been watching TV when the phone rang >> I had been watching a TV programme but it had ended and I had turned off the TV, and then the phone rang.

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    2006 is offline Banned
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    Re: difference between past continous and past perfect continuous

    Hi Anglika

    To me, your definition #2 sounds like a definition of 'I (was) (had been) watching TV before the phone rang.', and that raises the question of what exactly does sentence #2 mean.

    "I was watching TV when the phone rang." is simple and very clear in meaning and seems very much better than sentence #2.

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    Re: difference between past continous and past perfect continuous

    tense & aspect issues can be murky and I don't want to further muddy the waters but...as I see it:
    Anglika's #2 explanation is a possible scenario but it is not the only one (I agree that there then seems no difference between the two). It depends on context as always! Many novels use the past tense as their main tense, so a past perfect or past perfect continuous is necessary to express earlier actions/events. Anyone telling a story in the past might use the past perfect or past perfect continuous to clearly delineate time. Basically, if the speaker or writer felt it was necessary (the real reason we ever use the past perfect ) to create a timeline within context, he or she would use it! You're both right!

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    a further comment

    Anglika's #2 explanation may be a possible scenario, but I think a much better way to say that would be, 'I had just finished watching TV when the phone rang.'

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    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Re: difference between past continous and past perfect continuous

    It may well be better, but in since English is highly flexible, and often uses context to indicate meaning, other ways of saying or writing it are equally valid.#

    I actually do see a great difference between sitting in front of an active TV when the telephone rings and (maybe) no longer sitting in front of the TV as the programme is over and the TV is off when the telephone rings.

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    Re: a further comment

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    Anglika's #2 explanation may be a possible scenario, but I think a much better way to say that would be, 'I had just finished watching TV when the phone rang.'
    Why is it much better? In what way is it better?

    Sentence construction has to match what you are trying to say, and the purpose of 'had been watching TV' is to emphasise the watching TV aspect by using a grammar construction that fronts that.

    Your sentence using 'had just finished' emphasises that the TV watching has ended, and so has a different use. It is not 'much better', is is simply appropriate in different circumstances.

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    Re: a further comment

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    Anglika's #2 explanation may be a possible scenario, but I think a much better way to say that would be, 'I had just finished watching TV when the phone rang.'
    Oh, how frustrating! I just typed this all out & poof, it disappeared!! Anyway, I'll try to remember ...

    What I meant was that the sentence has a two possible meanings:
    a. the watching was finished (Anglika's suggestion)
    here the past perfect continuous is used to emphasize the continuity of the event (as the present perfect continuous is often used)
    b. the watching was still in progress (My suggestion)
    here the past perfect continuous is used to clearly mark time (distant past or other scenarios I suggested) and emphasize continuity

    The past perfect is a good choice if one wants to emphasize the completion of the activity rather than the continuity. There is no better or worse here; it completely depends on the needs or desires of the speaker/writer (and of course, context!)

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    2006 is offline Banned
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    Re: difference between past continous and past perfect continuous

    Sorry Andrew, but I don't think that you read the posts carefully. Did you read Anglika's interpretation of the meaning of original sentence #2. If you did, I shouldn't have to explain anything to you.

    Maybe this thread is an example of the apparent fondness of British English speakers for using perfect tense when, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and can lead to confusion.

    There is no context or circumstance here, so the sentences have to be clear on their own. Sentence #1 is very clear to me and I think that sentence #2 has the same meaning, but apparantly there is disagreement about what sentence #2 means.

    I hope to have nothing more to say on this thread.

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    Re: difference between past continous and past perfect continuous

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    Sentence #1 is very clear to me and I think that sentence #2 has the same meaning, but apparantly there is disagreement about what sentence #2 means.
    To me, there is a marked difference in meaning between these two sentences:

    1- I was watching TV when the phone rang.
    => The first event (watching TV) may or may not have ended. Cf. I was watching TV, and the phone rang. Did I stop watching TV?

    2- I had been watching TV when the phone rang.
    => The first event (watching TV) ended when the second event (phone rang) started. Cf. Before the phone rang, I had been watching TV.

    All the best.

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