were soon paying

HolyUnicorn

Senior Member
Mandarin / the Shanghai Dialect
Hello:

“After much experimentation, rice emerged as the principal export crop in Carolina. Rice was then an exotic food in England; no rice seeds were sent out from London in the first supply ships to Carolina. But rice was grown in Africa, and the Carolinians were soon paying premium prices for West African slaves experienced in rice cultivation.”

From “The American Pageant” by Thomas A. Bailey

Why does the writer use the continuous tense here (were soon paying) instead of the simple past (soon paid)?
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Because that’s what Carolinians in general began doing on an ongoing basis. The simple past would imply a single/one-off action.

    EDIT:
    Another example…
    The birds were very timid at first, but before long they were eating out of my hand. :thumbsup::thumbsup:

    The birds were very timid at first, but before long they ate out of my hand. :thumbsdown::confused:
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    1. The continuous tense states that they were still doing it at the time referred to.
    2. The style makes the action more immediate.
     
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