Past continuous tense in a fairy tale

Discussion in 'English Only' started by George1992, Sep 27, 2018.

  1. George1992 Senior Member


    Once upon a time there was an evil monster. It was living in a mysterious cave.
    Once upon a time there was an evil monster. It lived in a mysterious cave.

    Would you tell me why the past continuous tense is better then the past simple, please? I've always had difficulty understanding it.
  2. heypresto

    heypresto Senior Member

    South East England
    English - England
    Why do you think the past continuous is better here?
  3. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    This seems to imply that you have been told some things about the underlying principles. What have you been told?
  4. George1992 Senior Member

    It was in a video for children on YouTube. I know some rules of how to use the past continuos, but I don't know why it's used in this situation.
  5. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    As 'live' is necessarily a continuous action, 'lived' can be used with the same meaning as 'was living', and 'lived' is the more natural form in that sentence. 'Was living' in fact makes it sound more temporary: perhaps it was living in a cave because its house had burned down.
  6. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    The continuous aspect always means that the action happens until or at the same time as something else relevant. Here I guess that the “something else relevant” is the first part of the story, which the narrator is about to tell us about.

    PS I say “always” but this does not apply to examples like I am going tomorrow, where the same form indicates futurity and not (at least not in any very obvious way) continuous aspect.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2018
  7. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    We can't know either, because we don't know the whole context. Having said that, you should be aware that there are a lot of You Tube videos for kids in English that are not produced by native speakers. It isn't always immediately apparent, until you begin to spot the non-native errors.
  8. George1992 Senior Member

    I've found another fairy tale where the continuos form is used. This time I know the name of it. It's called 'Sun And The Moon in English | English Story'.
    [Edited to remove reference to video clip. DonynB - moderator]

    Would you help me once again, please? :cool:
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2018
  9. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hello, George.

    Can you give us the relevant sentence in writing, please, together with the three sentences that come before it?

    I suspect we have a similar case to the one in your post 1, where "It lived in a mysterious cave" is actually better than "It was living in a mysterious cave".
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2018
  10. George1992 Senior Member

    Sorry for the confusion, Loob :/ The monster from the cave, it was a different fairy tale.

    The current one is called 'Sun And The Moon in English | English Story | Fairy Tales in English | English Fairy Tales'.

    Before the sentence there are sentences like these -> Once upon a time, there lived a poor family in a village. It was a family of three. Mother. A young brother. And a little sister. They were living in a small house in the village.
  11. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Thank you, George.

    Yes, again I would say that the past simple would be better.

    It's just a statement of fact: They lived in a small house in the village.

    (I suspect, by the way, that the story wasn't written by a native English speaker. Once upon a time, there lived a poor family in a village sounds rather strange.)

  12. George1992 Senior Member

    Thank you very much, Loob :)

    It seems I will give up learning English :mad: It has been only the third fairy tale I was listening to on YouTube and if even the narrator is saying wrong sentences, then it's pointless to learn anything, because I simply don't recognize any reliable source. I'm surprised a video for kids can be wrong, especially a fairy tale. The subtitles read the same sentences :(
  13. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    British English
    Although it's apparently read by native speakers, there are several serious mistakes in that story. I didn't listen right to the end, but I counted four.

    (They reached near the tree ...
    She was unknown to the fact ...
    It's mouthwatering always to me ... , referring to rice cakes
    He watched his paws ...)

    The British Council's on-line language learning is first rate. You don't have to watch rubbish. They aren't even British/English or European folk tales.

    I've often thought that a lot can be learnt from the forum itself.
  14. George1992 Senior Member

    Thank you, Hermione :)

    The British Council's looks great :thumbsup:

    Me too. Actually, I've learnt a lot from people on this forum ;)

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