What have you been just doing/were doing?

  • JosieDoherty

    New Member
    English - Ireland
    What were you just doing when I rang the doorbell
    - once off event happened by me
    I had been in the library reading a book
    What have you just been doing as I was washing the dishes?
    Continuous event in progress by me
    Answer: I have just been sweeping the floor


    English - Canada/USA
    I don't know the rules about this but I suspect the first one is incorrect. One can say "what have you been doing" - this implies an extended activity over time in the past. But when you toss in the "just", you create a contradiction since you are focusing on what has happened in the immediate past (i.e. a moment or two ago). And this clashes with the implication of an extended time period as generated by the "have you been doing" construct. Just a guess.

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't think either reflects a natural use of 'just'. I would expect to hear 'just' in the answer to the question 'what were you doing when ... ?'
    The use of 'just' would mean ostensibly 'nothing important'. Of course with a detailed context it might have other meanings.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    So, how would you ask a person who was doing something 30 seconds-1 minute ago about what this person was doing?

    What were you doing?
    What were you doing a few moments ago?
    What were you just doing?
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