What Tense to Use Following "While"?

by Samah

Hi Diana, please I need a quick answer, as this came in the test and I lost a mark and I think I am not wrong:


The question was correcting the verbs:

"My mom was sitting beside me, she was watching the t.v while john was eating his dinner..."

That's what I wrote, but unfortunately 'was eating' was corrected by "ate".

I am not sure because after "while" I think we have to put the past continuous not the past tense.

Thanks for helping me.
Hi Samah,

This is a 'gray' area. I think that in most cases we would tend to use the simple past BUT I believe you can use the progressive tense as well.

I was working on the computer while Paco made dinner.
I was working on the computer while Paco was washing the dishes.

I was studying for my driver’s exam while my baby slept.
I was studying for my driver’s exam while my baby was sleeping.

My mother was talking on the phone while I made dinner.
My mother was talking on the phone while I was making dinner.

(I must admit that as I write those examples the first case with the simple past sounds better!)

According to my grammar reference guide (Practical English Usage):

"A progressive tense is usually used for the longer 'background action'".

"We usually use 'while' to say that two longer actions or situations go/went on at the same time. We can use progressive or simple tenses.
While you were reading the paper, I was working.
John cooked supper while I watched TV.


I think that your answer can be considered correct as well, although it is more comment to write the sentence using the simple past following while.

Comments for What Tense to Use Following "While"?

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May 23, 2011
following WHILE
by: Roberta

1. While i was studying, my mother made (make) a cake.
2. While i was studying, my mother was making (make) a cake.

Which is correct if asked to put the verb in the brackets in : Simple Present, Present Continuous, Past Continuous, Present Perfect, Perfect Simple, Future Simple or Going to.

Thanks for the help

Roberta
robertaofmykonos@gmail.com


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