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This is an example from a grammar book:

When I was learning to drive I was living with my parents.

Is it possible to say:

When I was learning to drive I lived with my parents?

Usually living with your parents is not a temporary situation.

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  • The lower sounds a bit strange even to a non native like me. Donn know why.
    – user17814
    May 25, 2018 at 18:23

1 Answer 1

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Yes ... but it doesn't really make much of a difference. Either was living or lived suggests the situation was temporary. For example:

When I was swimming every day, I got pretty tan.

The context suggests that, since I stopped swimming, I'm no longer as tan as I was. The verb tense doesn't change the implied meaning.

Also, if possible it is good English style to have the same verb tense when associating two parallel events or items. So was learning is paired with was living, which sounds nice. However, this is entirely optional, and again either was living or lived is fine.

Lastly I think you may have some cultural bias. In the US, adults living with their parents is often considered a sign of immaturity, and is often expressed as a temporary situation. Of course, other countries have different cultural norms, so we have to be careful not to make assumptions.

That being said, many people in the US learn to drive from a young age (14-17 years old in most states) when they are expected to still be living with their parents. So it suggests the writer is an adult, otherwise why mention the living situation.

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  • +1 >Also, if possible it is good English style to have the same verb tense when associating two parallel events or items. So was learning is paired with was living, which sounds nice. However, this is entirely optional, and again either was living or lived is fine. That's why I thought a bit weird.
    – user17814
    May 25, 2018 at 18:44
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    @KentaroTomono There's also the nuance and external context to consider. You wouldn't normally use the continuous tense without some surrounding narrative related to the continuous action. Once you get good at a language you naturally guess the surrounding context and anticipate what comes next. In this case I expect the writer wants to focus on the events of that time period, which is why both are in the same continuous tense. If the writer has a different focus, then lived might be more appropriate to talk about a set condition that's not as important.
    – Andrew
    May 25, 2018 at 18:55

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