Past Simple/Past Continuous or 2xContinuous


New Member
Hi there, I'm a secondary school English teacher and I've got a problem with a couple of sentences. The situation looks as follows. We're organizing an English competition at our school. The competition is held locally and the test questions were prepared by, let's say, the local governing body Of course we, as English teachers, were given the answer key but some of the suggested answers seem pretty dubious. For example,

2. Last Sunday when we .......... (come) back home my wife ......... (listen) to the radio. (answers in the key - "were coming" and "was listening")

It's difficult without context given but I assume that there is a couple who was on their way home and the man's wife was listening to some music on the radio.
Ok, but what if we assume that the man came home (went through the door) while his wife was listening to the radio. So what about "came" and "was listening"? I was taught that in such sentences the word "when" introduces Simple Past (as opposed to "while" which introduces Past Continuous). Am I right?
  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    When I read the test sentence I supposed that the wife was already home when we came back home: When we came back home my wife was listening to the radio. But I suppose that this is a slightly odd use of came: it would be more usual to say When we got back home my wife was listening to the radio. On the other hand, When we were coming back home my wife listened / was listening to the radio also sounds slightly odd to me. I would expect While we were coming back home my wife listened to the radio.