Context: on an English learning book I have been instructed to underline the "correct" option. The sentence is the following:

When we were at sea, we realized we hadn't packed/weren't packing the first-aid kit.

As for me, both options are right, because the rest of the sentence(context) doesn't make it clear which option is the appropriate to make this sentence grammatically correct.

  • "Packing", when it doesn't refer to the time when the baggage is being packed, refers to carrying a weapon. Generally, by the time you've departed you should have finished packing.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 17:13
  • hummm... so, weren't doesn't provide a context of tense in this case? Therefore packing should bee taken as carrying a weapon?
    – juliotv
    Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 17:15
  • @Hot Licks One gangster talking to another: "We might be packing, but we haven't packed our first-aid kit." The Mob sense is originally US, and still is, predominantly, to my ear. "carrying" possibly, in Britspeak. Green's Dictionary of Slang would no doubt elucidate.
    – Robin Hamilton
    Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 21:50
  • 1
    On a backpacking trip on might ask, “Hey, who’s packing the first-aid kit?”. But lots of times a multiple choice question seeks the best answer among several viable answers. “hadn’t packed is clearly the best of the two because one doesn’t need to contrive a situation to make it fit.
    – Jim
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 3:03

1 Answer 1


hadn't packed/weren't packing the first aid kit

The right choice is "hadn't packed", because packing for the trip is completed in the past.

The second option is wrong because it tries to use "weren't packing" to mean "weren't carrying", meaning "didn't have the first aid kit with us."

There's a U.S. slang use of "packing", short for "packing heat", which means carrying a concealed weapon. See packing heat for the details.

You can look up "pack" in its conventional meaning on-line, e.g., in MW.

  • According to GDoS, pack (carry a weapon) is the earliest -- 1863. heat (for a pistol) first appears in 1929. pack heat is the last to appear -- 1939.
    – Robin Hamilton
    Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 22:03
  • Thanks for your answer, sorry it took me more than 3 years to mark it.
    – juliotv
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 15:31

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