While practising past tenses I have encountered a couple of confusing dialogues.

A: How was your holiday?

B: Awful! It __________ (rain) the whole time.

The key says that the right answer is past simple i.e. "rained", but I tend to use past continuous there to say that an action was in progress at every moment during a period of time.

Could someone clarify I am right or not?

And here's the second one:

A: Was Jack practising his guitar again last night?

B: Why do you ask? _________________ (you/try) to call him?

Can I use past continuous there too to say that at the time Jack was practising his guitar, person A was trying to call him (an action in progress at a stated time in past)?

1 Answer 1


Both are idiomatic and mean much the same thing since rain isn't a discrete, goal-oriented action:

It rained the whole time.

It was raining the whole time.

With the following example the meaning is slightly different, since a call is a discrete action with a goal that can be attained; it is a completeable action:

Why do you ask? Were you trying to call him?

Why do you ask? Did you try to call him?

The continuous suggests repeated attempts to reach the person by phone, whereas the simple past suggests a single attempt.

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