What was happening/happened at nine o'clock last night?

tigerduck

Senior Member
German / Switzerland
Hello

In my opinion, the past continuous is best (was happening / were you doing) in the following two sentences. Do you agree with me and is the past simple also possible?

What was happening/happened at nine o'clock last night.
What were you doing/did you do at nine o'clock last night.
 
  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    In the abstract, it's impossible to answer your question. What kind of response are you expecting to these questions? That would have a big effect on whether you use a continuous or non-continuous verb aspect.
     

    tigerduck

    Senior Member
    German / Switzerland
    Can you give me examples, then? That would be helpful. I did not realize that the grammar in the question depends on the expected answer.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    If you're looking for an answer that gives a general state - "I was having a late dinner," "I was watching television," "I was getting ready to go clubbing" - then you would use the past continuous.

    If you're looking for an answer that's a discrete action that takes place precisely at 9 - for instance, if you're going through a schedule: "I left the office," "I called Julie," "I sat down to watch ER" - then you would use the past non-continuous.

    Hopefully that seems pretty simple... but without a context, it's impossible to say which one is "better."
     
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