1. The WordReference Forums have moved to new forum software. (Details)

We had a chat while we were waiting for our flights.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Alex_cs_gsp, Nov 5, 2011.

  1. Alex_cs_gsp Senior Member

    Ukraine
    Russian & Ukrainian
    I have got a context taken from the grammar book by Murphy, "I met Tom and Jane at the airport a few weeks ago. They were going to Paris and I was going to Rome. We had a chat while we were wating for our flights". Could you tell me whether it's possible there to replace "we had a chat" with "we were having a chat"? Would it be still correct?

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2011
  2. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    This would be grammatically correct: We were having a chat while we were waiting for our flights.

    However, I would be most likely to use it if chatting was the background to another action:
    [space]
    We were having a chat while we were waiting for our flights, when I suddenly realized he was my long-lost brother.
    [space]
    Otherwise, I would probably use the simple past, "had a chat".
     
  3. Alex_cs_gsp Senior Member

    Ukraine
    Russian & Ukrainian
    Does "we had a chat" mean a complete action here, like, "while we were wating for our flights, my best friend phoned me"? Perhaps due to the feature of the expression "to have a chat" I can't realize how it can be a finished action in the moment of waiting for their flights.

    O, maybe, the usage of "we had a chat" instead of "we were having a chat" means that the conversation lasted not the whole time during waiting for the flights?

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2011
  4. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    When you say you "had a chat", people understand you to mean that you stated talking together and then finished the conversation. So it can be a finished action. If you "had a chat" while you were waiting, it only means that you started and finished speaking during your wait. It doesn't necessarily mean that they lasted the same time, though they could have. If you want to say that both lasted the same time, you would say "We chatted while we waited".

    At least, I understand "had a chat" to mean that it was finished, but other people may understand it differently. In particular, BE speakers may use "have a chat" to mean "talk" without thinking of its being completed.

    (I hope I answered your question.)
     
  5. Alex_cs_gsp Senior Member

    Ukraine
    Russian & Ukrainian
    Thanks! So, that one, as I understood from your last reply, may be replaced with "There was a conversation between us while we were waiting for our flights (or waited for our flights)". Am I right?
     
  6. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    That is how I understand it. :)

    I will be please if a BE speaker sees this and responds. As I said, I think they may use 'have a chat' differently.
     
  7. This BE speaker understands it exactly like you, Cagey.

    Rover
     
  8. Alex_cs_gsp Senior Member

    Ukraine
    Russian & Ukrainian
    So, I want to summarize. The following sentences are both gramatically correct and idiomatical:


    "We had a chat while we were waiting for our flights". This one means that somewhere in the middle of the waiting time such an event as 'conversation' took place.


    "We were having a chat during half an hour while we were waiting for our flights". This one means that the conversation lasted exactly half an hour somewhere in the middle of the waiting time.


    Am I right?
     
  9. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    I would never say "during half an hour".

    And I think Alex has got it the wrong way round:
    - If someone says "We were having a chat while we were waiting for our flights" I expect to be told next what happened to interrupt that chat.
    - We had a chat while we were waiting for our flights" does not hint at any interruption or other intervening event.

    See here: http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/pastcontinuous.html
    Use the Past Continuous to indicate that a longer action in the past was interrupted. The interruption is usually a shorter action in the Simple Past.
     

Share This Page