Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Past progressive tense form and the messages

Past Progressive 
expresses
      · actions in progress when another action occurred:
            The sun was setting as we reached home.
            When you rang up your mum/mom, she was resting. 
      · gradual progression: 
            The sun was setting.    It was getting darker.     The wind was rising. 
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Past Progressive Tense Form and ‘time’
Past progressive tense form expresses 
1. importance to the continuity of the action rather than its completion:
            He was listening to the radio.
            They were watching TV.
            What were you doing all morning?
           
2. actions in progress when another action occurred:
            The sun was setting as we reached home.
            When you rang up your mum/mom, she was resting

3. gradual progression: 
            The sun was setting.    It was getting darker.     The wind was rising

4. actions repeated for a short period:
            The manager was typing his own letters while his secretary was ill.
            At that time, she was having regular singing lessons.
            He was taking his children out much oftener in those days.

5. annoyance or irritation at some repeated action (with an adverb):
             He was always grumbling.
             She was constantly troubling her husband for money with which to buy new clothes.

6. an intention not completed:
             You were going to give me your mobile number. (but you didn’t)
             The police were going to charge her.                 (but they didn’t)

7. an arrangement in the future determined in the past:
             You were meeting him at the Taj the next day.
             They were getting married the following spring.
             He busy packing for he was leaving that night.

8. actions that are contrary to routine:
              I was surprised to see they were drinking tea at breakfast.
                 (They usually took coffee.)
              I felt that the fellow was telling the truth. (He usually lied.)
              Their regular teacher fell ill, so I was taking the class for history. 

9. incomplete actions because of interruption:
              I sprained my ankle while I was playing tennis.
              Father was watching TV while the lights went off.

10. interrelationship or identity with another simultaneous event:
                Do you think he was telling the truth (when he said that)?

                A: What did she mean by that?
                B: I think she was advising you not to interfere.    

11. casualness rather than purposefulness:                
                 I was talking to Mohan, and he was telling me that the job is still vacant.

Note: The use of second past progressive tense here doesn’t mean the action was a long one;
          nor does it mean the action was incomplete.  The tense tells us that the action (‘telling’
          or ‘advising’) was part of a conversation where it was one of the several ideas that were
          shared. Other verbs of ‘speaking’ used in this manner are: apologize, thank, predict,
          request etc.
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Meaning differences between past and past progressive
1.        My sister was studying for her exams while I was watching television. 
           My sister studied for her exams while I watched television.
    The past progressive tense stresses ‘continuity’ while the past tense, ‘completion’.

2.        When we arrived, my wife made some coffee.
           When we arrived, my wife was making coffee.
    The past tense indicates that coffee-making followed our arrival. The past progressive
    means that the arrival took place during coffee-making.

3.        He played for several first-class teams (before he retired).
           He was playing in a match against the North (the day he scored a hat trick.)
    The past tense indicates permanence of ‘playing’ and the past progressive, a specific 
    occasion. 
    
4.         I read a novel yesterday evening. [ie the whole novel]
            I was reading a novel yesterday evening.
    The past tense indicates completion of the act and past progressive indicates only the
    continuity of the action.    

5.          A: ‘Did you hear about Balu’s new job?’
             B : ‘ Yes, my wife was telling me about it this morning.’ 
            (or) ‘ Yes, my wife told me about it this morning.’
   The past tense suggests: ‘I know more or less all about it; I don’t need any further
   information.’ 
   The past continuous tense suggests: ‘I have heard a little about it, but I should like to hear
   more.’                 

6.            I talked to Gopal the other day.
               I was talking to Gopal the other day.
   The past tense implies intention/purpose. The past progressive means: I happened to talk 
    to Gopal. (I had no intention, the talk just happened.)

7.            What were you doing before you came here?
               What did you do before you came here?  
   The past progressive implies ‘politeness’ towards the listener. This is absent in the past
   tense.

8.             What were you doing in my room?
                What did you do in my room?
   The past progressive implies an accusation, which is absent in the past tense.
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