My wife went to another city for a week, so I wanted to ask her who was working during that time.

Are the following sentences correct?
Which one is more natural?

Who was working in the shop while you were away?

Who has been working while you were staying in Saigon?

  • "Who was working in the shop while you were away?" (asked after-the-fact) or "Who has been working in the shop while you ARE staying in Saigon?" (if asked in the present, while she's still away). You would NOT say: "Who has been working while you were staying in Saigon?" You would say: "Who WAS working etc." – Mark Hubbard Nov 29 '16 at 16:36
  • Hey, so "who was working while you were away " is correct assuming i ask her once she is back? Also, if so, why is simple past progressive in this case before the while and not after? In classic examples like : "while i was studying,the telephone rang?" It is the other way?? – Matthias Nov 29 '16 at 16:41
  • Yes, that is correct. I don't know the answer to your second question, however. Someone else will chime in soon, I suspect. – Mark Hubbard Nov 29 '16 at 16:45

"Who was working in the shop while you were away?" is more natural. In the second sentence, the use of "has been working" emphasises the work rather than who did it.

I would use the phrase "who has been working" if I wanted to talk about whether the work has or has not progressed, such as "Who has been working on this? Why isn't it finished?". And the phrase "while you were staying" is unecessary. Take a look at this thread for an example of "stayed" verses "were staying": https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/188422/i-went-to-the-hotel-you-were-staying-at-vs-you-stayed-at. There are some good examples of when you might need to use the past continuous.

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