There were always a couple of people who put their hands up right away, usually girls, usually from the town kids who dressed up for school. They sat in the front of every class, boys and girls together. Then, the blacks sat together, some of them at the front and some right behind. The country kids, which included the watermen's families as far as Dicey could tell from overheard conversations about the crab catches and the fishing season and oyster beds, sat in the middle and back.

Nobody sat near Dicey, who sat alone. She scratched at the shoulder of her T-Shirt and waited to hear how stupid the answers to the question. There was only one other person in the class who thought of interesting answers, and that was a black girl who sat in the front row.

Question: In the above paragraph what writer wants to say?

I.e. He wants to depict Simple past activity at the specific time or Habitual activity?

a) It was a Habitual activity of sitting in the class room by student or just that day I mean at the specific time in the past.

B) In Second paragraph Dicey was sitting alone at that specific time or Usually/Everytime no body sat beside her hence she sat alone.

c) "Then, the blacks sat together, some of them at the front and some right behind." . In this sentence also writer wants say that everyday blacks sat together?

  • Native speakers often rely more upon context than upon the verb form itself to distinguish between discrete actions that took place once, and habitual past actions. Here the simple past is used but the context is clearly about habitual action. The author could have written would put up their hands and they would sit etc etc, to emphasize the habitual aspect. But the marked verb form is not necessary if the context is clear enough.
    – TimR
    Jun 23, 2018 at 18:30
  • [Correction: In the paragraph above, what **does the writer want to say?]
    – Lambie
    Oct 5, 2020 at 18:12

1 Answer 1


In your example, the autyhor is depicting habitual activity, this is show by the first line

There were always

In the second paragraph it is assumed the habitual continues with

(Usually) Nobody sat near Dicey, who sat alone.

It can be assumed that

She scratched at the shoulder of her T-Shirt...

was something she may have done often, but not every time a question was asked.

  • "She scratched at the shoulder of her T-Shirt" seems to be part of the present-tense narrative. The chapter is going back and forth between description and narration. Jan 27, 2019 at 23:11

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