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Heeeey, i need your help, again.
In class, We were discussing Past Continuous. I gave them a group of exercises, one of which was to choose the correct tense either Past Simple or Past Continuous. The exercise was:

A: which hotel __________ (you/stay) in when you lost your passport?
B: I don't remember. I __________ (visited) many places during my European tour and I ___________ (stay) in many different places.

we had a large debate on what should be Past Simple and what should be Past continuous.
Can you tell me the right answer and why.
I am already grateful.

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  • (A) would usually be were you staying in, but (do-supported) did you stay in would be fine in some contexts where the passport loss wasn't particularly relevant to time of utterance. (B) would almost always be (simple past) visited + stayed. – FumbleFingers Feb 15 '18 at 13:32
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In A, the instance of losing the passport happens during the process of staying at a particular hotel. So, Past Continuous is appropriate to describe this process of staying.

In B, the person is simply recounting what happened. It is similar to how Past Simple would be used in any book where a story is told. The length of visits and stays plays absolutely no role. In this situation, it's the tour itself that is a process, and it contains a sequence of simple facts.

In A, the asker presupposes that something started before Event X, was in progress at the time when Event X happened, and ended some time after the Event X. It was a continuous situation—because the asker presupposes that the guy who lost his passport (let's call him Mr. L) can pinpoint the time of loss to the time of being in a certain city. This would in fact be so if Mr. L remembered seeing his passport the day that he arrived in that city, but checked his documents on the day he was supposed to leave and found out that the passport was no longer there.

Again, this is the asker's presupposition, and this is why, coming from this assumption, the asker would apply this tense (continuous).

The answer tells us that this wasn't the case (Mr. L can't pinpoint the time of loss to a time of staying in a specific city), so Event X can't be mapped onto a time when a certain stay at a hotel was in progress, and thus we have a simple sequence of actions.

  • I asked a teacher working with me and he said that all of them should be in the past simple. He said the answer in A should be in the past because i am talking about something in specific. therefore, i should use past simple. his answer also agrees with yours about B – Bader EL-din Feb 15 '18 at 14:31
  • @BaderEL-din "Something in specific" is not a criterion for Past Simple. That said, Past Simple is not outright impossible in this situation. But since we do have a process here, the continuous tense comes to mind naturally. E. g., here, in a British newspaper, we have a phrase, "Which hotel were you staying in when he was conceived?" This is also pretty specific. How could this be un-specific? So, to sum up, Past Simple is possible (though not preferred), and to say that Continuous can't be used here is wrong. – tenebris2020 Feb 15 '18 at 14:42
  • @BaderEL-din I've expanded my answer to explain better. (The comment field was too small for that.) – tenebris2020 Feb 15 '18 at 14:52

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