Many teachers say that the present tense contains a photo-like image while the present continuous contains a video-like image. I feel it is the opposite. I understand that the past tense is like a promo video broadcast in the past and the past continuous shows what was going on on the screen when you paused the promo.
Am I completely wrong? Thank you.
13 February, 2013 at 19:37
Total posts: 774
Reply To: past tense and past continuous
Many teachers say that the present tense contains a photo-like image
This would seem to suggest that the present simple represents a snapshot of a particular situation, which is not really the case – we use present simple to talk about permanent situations and facts, and repeated or habitual actions… not really snapshots.
I understand that the past tense is like a promo video broadcast in the past and the past continuous shows what was going on on the screen when you paused the promo.
I’m not sure that this analogy explains it very clearly. First, let’s be clear here that we’re talking about the use of past simple and past continuous together, where one action interrupts another. So, we use past continuous for an ongoing action. This ongoing action is interrupted by another action, for which we use past simple.
I was eating dinner when the phone rang.
"Eating dinner" is the ongoing action which is interrupted by the phone ringing. In this context, "eating dinner" is a relatively long action, and the phone ringing is relatively short.
So if anything, the video broadcast would be the past continuous action rather than the past simple action. Yes, "pausing" it at a particular point would show what was happening at that particular moment in time (eating dinner), but that’s as far as the analogy goes for me.