While she was driving to work every day she was listening or listened to languages CDs

In the test the answer is listened because the action is completed now: she does not listen to these cds anymore but she is still driving to work

Could was listening be ok because at this time she was still listening to these cds even if now the action is finished

The complete exercise can be found here

  • It's a stupid "test". There's no indication of why the continuous is used at all, The natural utterance is just While she drove to work every day she listened to language CDs. It's a "valid, but unlikely" stylistic choice to express either or both verb in the continuous, for which I'd expect the writer to have some reason (in which context "parallel construction" is just a possible description, not a justification). Mar 21, 2023 at 13:20

2 Answers 2


Past continuous can be used for two actions happening at the same time, so called parallel actions. More information about past continuous here.

  • so my solution is also good because at the time we re speaking they were parallels actions
    – Yves Lefol
    Oct 24, 2018 at 8:25
  • yes you are right.
    – anouk
    Oct 24, 2018 at 8:31
  • I'm not sure that is correct. See my answer.
    – Jaime
    Mar 21, 2023 at 13:34

The answer that the test setter wanted you to choose ("listened") does seem more natural given that the situation being described happened every day. Two past continuous tenses for actions that happen simultaneously would tend to be used more commonly (and would tend to sound more natural) for a situation that happened only once. For activities that habitually happened at the same time in the past, native speakers of standard English would tend to use the present simple for at least one of them ... typically for the activity that started later than the other one.

Examples: "I made the tea every Sunday while she was doing the garden."

"Billy typically listened to the radio while he was cooking."

"Derek often did his footcare routine while he was watching television. (That's why I moved out.)"

It seems to me the test setter is right to expect a present simple. However, the reason you give as the justification doesn't sound very credible: "... because the action is completed now: she does not listen to these cds anymore but she is still driving to work."

If that were the case, some form of "used to" or equivalent would seem to be required to sort out what she still does now from what she stopped doing some time ago.

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