This question just suddenly somehow popped up in my mind.

Usually what I encountered in a sentence is in the pattern "past tense + past continuous"


I was doing homework when my mum came back.

I would like to know whether it is grammatically okay to use two past continuous tenses in one sentence?


I was laughing so hard when I was watching the video.

  • 1
    It's fine and commonly used. Compare "I was watching TV whilst I was eating my lunch". "I was doing my homework while I was listening to the radio". Consider also "Kim was skipping and laughing"; "Ed was moaning and groaning all day long". – BillJ Mar 29 '18 at 12:53

It's correct to use the past continuous 2 times in a single sentence to give background information:

  1. It was pouring with rain and she was wondering what to do.
  2. You weren’t listening to me when I was explaining the rules!
  3. Who were they talking to when you were preparing the report?
  4. I was laughing so hard when I was watching the video.

But we use the past continuous only once when something happened in the middle of something else (e.g.I was doing homework when my mum came back).

  • This may just be me, but "It was pouring with rain" sounds odd to me - not because of the progressive, but because I would expect "It was pouring rain" instead. Otherwise I think you've nailed this explanation though. – Sparksbet Mar 29 '18 at 15:56
  • @Sparksbet Perhaps, it's really just a matter of preference... "To pour with rain" is an idiom which means "to rain heavily" (idioms.thefreedictionary.com/pour+with+rain) and a "pouring rain" is a very heavy rain. So, both should be fine... Don't you think so? – Enguroo Mar 30 '18 at 2:43
  • "pour with rain" must be an idiom in a different dialect than the one I speak; I can't recall ever hearing it. – Sparksbet Mar 31 '18 at 15:27

In accordance to the "Timeline" (past,present,future), when you are speaking of a past action that happened during another event is in process, the rules are simple:

  1. When my mum came home, I was doing my homework (continues).
  2. I was doing my homework (continues) at the moment when my mum arrived.

I was laughing when i was watching (is not correct) except you want to imply that you have been laughing as long as you watched the video.


You can also use the past continuous for parallel actions: I was doing my homework when/while my mum was talking on the phone. These are two actions happening at the same time.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.