Past continuous tense in a fairy tale

George1992

Senior Member
Hi!

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.
 
  • 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.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Once upon a time there was an evil monster. It was living in a mysterious cave.
    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.
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    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.
    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.
     

    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:
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    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'.
    [...]

    Would you help me once again, please? :cool:
    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".
     
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    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.
     

    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.)

     

    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 :(
     

    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.
     
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