Here’s how it works:
The guests were having a splendid time at the party celebrating His Lordship’s birthday, when a large group of tigers burst into the room and ate everyone up.
Do I have your attention? Good. This is a simple one. V-ing form is fine in the present tense. For example:
I am running down the middle of a street.
Smashing first sentence, very catchy! When we use the continuous tense in the present, we’re showing an action that is going on right now. Huzzah, action, right now! But when we’re dealing with past tense V-ing, it’s a different story. Keep in mind that when we’re talking about the past, no matter what length of time in the past, the action must have finished, since it’s in the past tense!
For this reason, the past continuous form commonly ends with something that interrupts the continuous action. For example, our running person in the example above may find an unfortunate end to the run:
I was running along the street when a truck hit me.
Boom! No more running. In the great majority of cases, past V-ing has a V-ed tacked on at the end to explain what happened. One alternative:
I was running along the street to see if I could catch up to the bus, but it pulled away before I could get close.
If you simply want to explain one action, one alternative is to use the simple past.
In order to get back in shape, I ran along the street. It was good exercise, even though the exhaust from the cars was annoying.
No matter what kind of ending to the action the writer chooses, in the past tense, the reader expects some sort of ending.
Looking for more tips? Here’s what’s up so far. More to come!
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