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  1. #1
    phoenixqn81 is offline Junior Member
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    Default he struggled hard or he was struggling hard?

    Dear teachers/members,

    Please explain why we use the past continuous there (the underlined words). I just think we should use simple past here.

    The royal troops had to handle the curious crowd with much difficultly, now they felt more confused and difficult to treat the naughty boy that was boldly bathing in the lake right at the time when the King came to enjoy the beautiful scene of the lake. Without a mere delay, some troops with spears in their hands waded into lake, seizing Quat and bring him ashore to rope him.
    However, roping the boy was not an easy job. Quat was struggling hard with his hands waving around, legs kicking about and mouth shouting loudly. He caused such a disturbing sight that had ever seen.



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    Default Re: he struggled hard or he was struggling hard?

    The royal troops had to handle the curious crowd with much difficultly, now they felt more confused and *difficult [ungrammatical] to treat the naughty boy that was boldly bathing in the lake right at the time when the King came to enjoy the beautiful scene of the lake. Without a mere delay, some troops with spears in their hands waded into lake, seizing Quat and *bring [ungrammatical] him ashore to rope him.

    However, roping the boy was not an easy job. At the time of his capture, Quat was struggling hard [grammatical] with his hands waving around, legs kicking about and mouth shouting loudly. He caused such a disturbing sight that had ever seen [ungrammatical].

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    Default Re: he struggled hard or he was struggling hard?

    ...but why is the Past Continuous more appropriate than Past tense?

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    Default Re: he struggled hard or he was struggling hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    ...but why is the Past Continuous more appropriate than Past tense?
    Not 'more appropriate', just more immediate. It places the reader there, in the time of the past event. Either or tense could be used, right? It's a matter of literary license.

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    Default Re: he struggled hard or he was struggling hard?

    Not 'more appropriate', just more immediate. It places the reader there, in the time of the past event. Either or tense could be used, right? It's a matter of literary license.

    Oh?
    In your corrected version, the action takes place in the past tense in the first paragraph. Then:

    (...bringing him ashore to rope him.)

    However, roping the boy was not an easy job. At the time of his capture, Quat was struggling hard with his hands waving around, legs kicking about and mouth shouting loudly. He caused such a disturbing sight that had ever been seen.


    The problem is, there is a disconcerting jump in the narrative flow, introduced by the odd phrase, "At the time of his capture". We have been in the midst of this capture, the dragging from the water, and now roping him. Suddenly, we jump to some future point, after the capture, where we now look back 'at the time of his capture'. I reiterate, a moment ago we were in the process of capturing and securing him/the sequence of events.
    (I knew something was wrong with the passage, and had thought it was the choice of tense, and that the shift to Continuous was more appropriate than retaining Simple Past. But in assembling my thoughts as to why, I now see, that was not the problem.)

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    Default Re: he struggled hard or he was struggling hard?

    David, if know the answer, by all means provide it. I'm not here to challenge you or your opinions, nor am I here to play who's the most knowledgeable. I'm here because I am a teacher and I enjoy helping language learners.

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    Default Re: he struggled hard or he was struggling hard?

    Soup: understand this. My 'prompts' are not intended for you.

    They are to raise points emerging in threads so that, 'in viva', there is an opportunity with all those who are following the thread and its posts to stimulate discussion and clarification among anyone who is interested, primarily among more advanced non-native speakers.

    I raised the issue of tenses; and used your revised version to indicate that something still felt wrong with this passage, original and corrected - that your explanation did not relieve the unease in my gut that 'something is wrong'.

    In getting down to it, I admitted that I was wrong with what I first thought was the problem, and explained what I think it is.

    I am tackling the thorny issues of grammar and getting stuck into the nitty gritty in posts as it arises and fascinates ..........
    not getting stuck into you! I noticed this in another thread today, where some the head of ego-centrism reared to make a highly offensive comment about me, for which I would like a retraction.

    Just because I love teasing out issues............
    Last edited by David L.; 05-Mar-2009 at 18:29.

  8. #8
    phoenixqn81 is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: he struggled hard or he was struggling hard?

    Thank you, Soup for your correction. And much thank to David L.

    Actually, I met the usage of this tense some times before and I also thought like David. My teacher shortly explained me as Soup did, but I still unease about this case.

    It just like the matter was happening and suddenly, we appeared in a while and then, disappeared. And it means that we want to use this tense everytime we want to be there, and any one will accept the case, right?

    I think David, me and more other people have the same query in here, so please help me make this issue clear.

    I know I certainly meet this case in near future, and I really hope to be sure that I am cleared it by you all.

    Thank you so much

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    Default Re: he struggled hard or he was struggling hard?

    As I finally realized, and mentioned, the problem in the sentence for me was the phrase, "At the time of his capture..."; and I've explained why this disconcerted me, in an earlier post.

    I note that you have omitted this in your latest version, so we now have:

    ...seizing Quat and bring him ashore to rope him.
    However, roping the boy was not an easy job. Quat was struggling hard with his hands waving around, legs kicking about and mouth shouting loudly. He caused such a disturbing sight that had ever seen.


    The Past tense form of a verb presents the action as merely (1) a 'fact': 'he gave up immediately' versus 'he struggled'; and (2) without any reference to a period of time surrounding the action. To try to explain this further: remember that a fact in the Present tense is completely 'unbounded', without any suggestion of a definite 'beginning', "a period of time', and then an 'end' : "Water boils at 100 degrees C". It has always been so, and will always be so - the idea of placing any time constraint on 'when it happened' or 'when it will stop happening', or 'how long has this been happening' is nonsensical.
    A Past tense fact is the opposite! It either happened or it didn't. The Simple Past regards the idea of an action occurring over a period of time as irrelevant : it's like, I don't care how long it took you, just tell me - have you done it or not?/is it done or isn't it?!
    Imagine a detective working on a murder case and that it takes him 10 years to solve. All the information and history of tracking down the criminal, what happened from month to month, is then put into one manila folder, and closed, and SOLVED stamped on the front cover. Hand that file to someone, and all they know from the front cover is that this case was solved (as opposed to not solved). They have no idea from that simple fact, 'solved', how long it took. OK, crimes obviously take time to solve, but in sorting files into piles, SOLVED versus UNSOLVED, the time involved in solving or trying to solve those cases is irrelevant.

    If we are talking about a completed action in the remote past, but DO want to convey that the action required a period of time to perform before coming to a definite end, then we can use the continuous form of the verb in the past tense.
    So - let's have another look at the passage.
    However, roping the boy was not an easy job.
    If it "wasn't easy", then it immediately suggests as we picture this, that the 'roping' did take some time. Hence, we can convey that by the use of the Past Continuous tense - "Quat was struggling hard" - and the rest of the sentence ("with his hands waving around, legs kicking about and mouth shouting loudly") agree with this sense of the action going on for a short period of time, then coming to a definite end.
    Hence, Past Continuous conveys this sense better than the use here of the Simple Past.
    Last edited by David L.; 06-Mar-2009 at 12:26.

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