Past Simple vs. Past Continuous / Past Progressive (過去式 vs. 過去進行式)


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The main distinction between past simple and past continuous is that one (past simple) states a more permanent situation such as facts or repetitive actions in the past, and the other (past continuous) states a more temporary condition such as things happening at that very moment in the past.  The more permanent situation might have interrupted the more temporary condition which was in progress.   


When talking about states or feelings, use simple past tense unless you were stating a feeling at that very moment as we spoke. 



For example:

1.   He was playing computer games when all of a sudden the electricity went off.


2.  Mary was playing piano during recess.  (a temporary situation)

2.  Mary played piano when she was young.  (a permanent situation)


3.  When we were in Maine, we were eating lobsters every Friday night.  (Here, we emphasize that the repeated actions only went on for a limited and temporary period in the past.)

3.  When we were in Main, we ate lobsters every Friday night.  (Here, we emphasize that the repeated actions in the past were permanent.)


4. I felt bad that Jeremy was not feeling well. 



Use past simple when describing actions happening or in progress at the same in the past.  However, simple past can also express a similar meaning.  If we want to address completed actions that followed one another, use past simple.


For example:

John watched TV while Jimmy was playing Nintendo.

John was watching TV while Jimmy was playing Nintendo.


All the people yelled “surprise” when Mary entered her house. 




See details for Past Simple at

and Past Continuous at  



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