Choosing the Right Verb Tense

by Samah

Hello Ola, I had a question in my exam regarding the correction of verbs. The question asked, "choose the correct form:"

He had a book in his hand but he (didn't read it-was not reading) it he (watched-was watching) t.v

My answer was (didn't read ,watched) my teacher said both are right, but the head of the subject said the past continuous is right and mine is wrong.

Please I need an answer as the exam will be corrected soon. Thank you in advance for your help Ola. -Samah

Comments for Choosing the Right Verb Tense

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Nov 29, 2010
Thank you
by: samah

Thanks a lot Ola, really I am happy to use this website it is so helpful!


Nov 27, 2010
Past tense
by: Ola Zur

I wouldn't say it is "wrong". But it is quite likely that a native speaker would use the past continuous tense in this case, since it expresses the whole idea better.

Nov 26, 2010
Simple Past
by: samah

Does this mean that the simple past is wrong or can it be used?

Nov 25, 2010
Past Continuous
by: Ola Zur

Hi Samah,

The past continuous tense sounds more appropriate in this case:

He had a book in his hand but he was not reading it. He was watching TV.

This is because it seems this sentence describes actions that were in progress at a specific time in the past --> past continuous.

I hope this helps. You can also check out the Past Progressive Section on my site for more explanations and examples on this tense.

Ola Zur is the editor of, an illustrated guide to English.

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