Is it different in English?

JohnnyB1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Is it different in English?

Maybe I’m wrong but I thought in English, “when” is the one that goes with pretérito indefinido because it is “when” something happens, “when” something interrupts an existing action. So I would say “I was taking a shower when the phone rang” or “when you called, I was talking to a friend.” It’s weird to me to use “when” to go with an ongoing action. I mean “when” is a point in time, right? Not an ongoing event.

Asked 1 year ago
MarshaC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

If you think about it, when you shower you don't do it in an instant it's for a period of time, so when I was showering [ongoing action] the phone rang [interruption]. It may be easier for you to think of when as while/whilst.

DavidC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

In the English (and other) languages, it is often a question of 'taste' as to what constructions get utilised; i.e., they are not always governed by strict 'rigid rules'. Like Johnny and Marsha, I personally would be inclined to say 'while' if I was referring to an ongoing event . However, according to Michael Swan's "Practical English Usage" [Oxford UP, 1980 > 1988], in that context it is also permissible to use 'when'.

Quite possibly, older English grammar books would discourage 'when', while you are talking about ongoing events. 

Is it different in English?

Maybe I’m wrong but I thought in English, “when” is the one that goes with pretérito indefinido because it is “when” something happens, “when” something interrupts an existing action. So I would say “I was taking a shower when the phone rang” or “when you called, I was talking to a friend.” It’s weird to me to use “when” to go with an ongoing action. I mean “when” is a point in time, right? Not an ongoing event.

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Ask a question

Find your Spanish level for FREE

Test your Spanish to the CEFR standard

Find your Spanish level
Thinking...