I bullied people and I was bullying people.

Fbohn21

Senior Member
Deutsch
Hello.


I am wondering whether “I bullied people” is basically the same as “I bully people” just that it was in the past and that I either did it one or multiple times it that I was a habit.

But now “I was bullying people” does that just emphasise the process, that I was constantly bullying people or was bullying people when something else happened.
 
  • Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    The present tense "I bully people" means this is a habitual action, part of my typical behaviour.

    "I bullied people" is past tense, referring to some unstated time in the past. It is not clear whether you have stopped bullying people, or still do it.

    "I used to bully people" refers to something you did in the past regularly or repeatedly, but it implies that you do not do that now. If it's important, for example when giving evidence in court, you might be more explicit:
    I used to bully people years ago, but not nowadays.
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    When the teacher entered the classroom, she saw that Jack was bullying a small boy, so she told him to stop it immediately.

    In the above, I used "was bullying" because it was an ongoing action interrupted by another (momentary) action (the intervention of the teacher).
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    What about “was bullying”?
    I am sure that I have mentioned this before in response to one of your questions:
    The continuous form of the verb always indicates that
    (i) the action is not yet complete;
    (ii) it is continuing at the time referred to;
    (iii) the subject/agent is spending time doing the action at the time referred to.

    This meaning is independent of the action being habitual or isolated.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    just emphasise the process
    I think you are confusing the progressive or continuous aspect (which is vital in English) with the imperfective aspect (which is not).
    - The imperfective (as opposed to the perfective) emphasizes the process rather than the outcome.
    - The continuous or progressive aspect indicates that the action continues while or until another relevant action or time (which the speaker has in mind) happens. (In the case of the present tense the "other relevant action" is often the speaker's speech act.)
     
    Last edited:

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    The continuous form of the verb always indicates that
    (i) the action is not yet complete;
    (ii) it is continuing at the time referred to;
    (iii) the subject/agent is spending time doing the action at the time referred to.
    Paul, please could you.clarify what you mean? Is the above supposed to be an OR list or an AND list?

    I cannot accept that (i) always has to be true - far from it. The past continuous is often used to refer to actions that stopped before the time of talking about the action.
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    When the policed arrived, the defendant was digging a hole to put the body in. He was arrested and taken to the local police station.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    the defendant was digging a hole
    That seems to meet the criteria in
    (i) the action is not yet complete;
    (ii) it is continuing at the time referred to;
    (iii) the subject/agent is spending time doing the action at the time referred to.
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    Why do you say "is not complete" when you're talking about the past?

    And the action WAS complete in the past in the sense that he stopped digging; he did no more digging; that was the end of it.

    If Jack was breathing until he gasped his last breath and died, you could not say his breathing was/is not complete, could you?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Why do you say "is not complete" when you're talking about the past?
    Perhaps I was not clear with
    (ii) it is continuing at the time referred to;
    or
    (iii) the subject/agent is spending time doing the action at the time referred to.

    Please note your own example:
    When the policed arrived,
    -> this defines the "time referred to"
    the defendant was digging a hole -> this confirms that the defendant was still in the process, at that time, of digging a hole.

    And the action WAS complete in the past in the sense that he stopped digging; he did no more digging; that was the end of it.
    But that is irrelevant. The continuous tells you the completeness at the time referred to.
    If Jack was breathing until he gasped his last breath and died, you could not say his breathing was/is not complete, could you?
    You certainly can. At the time referred to: "until he gasped his last breath and died," he was breathing - you said so yourself.

    This is about the completeness of the verb. :)
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I’m puzzled by this thread. There is nothing special about the verb “bully” with regard to basic tense differences, which I’m sure have been discussed at great length in the forum. I know Fbohn21 asks tons of questions about simple vs. progressive, but usually this is in the context of complex sentences and/or tricky nuances. This question seems to be a straightforward question about tense distinctions, too basic for what I would have assumed Fbohn21’s level to be.

    Fbohn21, am I missing something about the verb “bully” in particular that made you start this thread?
     

    Fbohn21

    Senior Member
    Deutsch
    Yes I think this thread has gone off question.

    I know that I was bullying him when the teacher came in, is needed because something else happened while I was bullying him.


    I am just wondering whether I can say I was bullying people in the past, without there being any kind of interruption.

    Just to focus on the past or if “bullied” is better.
     

    Fbohn21

    Senior Member
    Deutsch
    No because my question, (as written above) is whether I can use “was bullying” when I am describing something that wasn’t interrupted but happened in the past.

    If I want to emphasis the process of it.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    No.

    You could say “I constantly bullied people” or “I was always/constantly bullying people.”

    But again, none of this is specific to the verb “bully.”
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If I want to emphasis the process of it.
    #6 answers this question.
    “I was always/constantly bullying people.”
    :tick: This is a separate idiomatic use of the continuous aspect with an adverb of repetition such as "constantly", complaining about the action. I guess that the original idea behind the idiom is that the action continues while someone else endures it.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Hello.


    I am wondering whether “I bullied people” is basically the same as “I bully people” just that it was in the past and that I either did it one or multiple times it that I was a habit.

    But now “I was bullying people” does that just emphasise the process, that I was constantly bullying people or was bullying people when something else happened.
    Yes, it can be used that way.

    Did you have any particular context in mind?
     

    taraa

    Senior Member
    Persian
    No: "all day yesterday."
    There is little difference between "I bullied people all day yesterday" and "I was bullying people all day yesterday."

    Context includes what you mean to say by choosing one form over the other.
    Thanks a lot both!


    The context:
    What were you doing yesterday?
    I was bullying people all day yesterday.
    But for the simple past I can't find context.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    What were you doing yesterday?
    I was bullying people all day yesterday.

    What did you do yesterday?
    I bullied people all day yesterday.
     
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