I am studying past simple and past continuous and then encountered an exercise(filling the blank with the words in parentheses in correct tense) as below:

Last night, while I was doing my homework, Angela (call) called. She said she (call) was calling me on her cell phone from her biology classroom at UCLA...

The bold texts are correct answers. I have no problem of the first one, it indicates a longer action was interrupted (by a shorter one). But the second answer uses the past continuous and I couldn't understand it. I could not figure out which usage of past continuous it belongs to. Could anyone help explaining? I learned the 5 usages of past continuous from English Page(http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/pastcontinuous.html). Thanks for your time and effort!

  • This is just how people talk. In a sentence like "I'm calling about your ad for the apartment" the use of present continuous expresses more immediacy, what the caller is doing right now. In the context of a past event, as in your example, present continuous becomes past continuous.
    – Robusto
    Mar 3, 2017 at 4:45
  • 1
    @Robusto So in the context Angela just say "I am calling you on my cell phone from my biology classroom" (present continuous), and "I" turn it to past continuous just because "I" describe the whole story in past simple?
    – Fopopo
    Mar 3, 2017 at 5:15
  • It's reported speech, so you report what she was saying at the time she said it.
    – Robusto
    Mar 3, 2017 at 15:18

1 Answer 1


She said she was calling me on her cell phone from her biology classroom at UCLA...

This sentence represents reported speech with the reporting verb "say" in the past simple.The original sentence would be

"I am calling you on my cell phone from..."

with the verb in the present continuous am calling, because she is doing that now. With backshifting it becomes was calling in the reported speech.

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