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dialog 1.

My friend asks me general question "What did you do yesterday?" and for example my car is broken and the damage is to big so it can not be fixed within one day. Do I have to use past simple or continuous?

a)"I was repairing my car (the whole day/morning/10 hours)?"

b)"I repaired my car" - does not matter if the car is fixed or not today.

dialog 2.

I have a mess in my room and my mom says "clean your room!" Next day my room is still messy and she says:

c)"You should have cleaned your room, what were you doing (all day)?"

d)"You should have cleaned your room, what did you do?"

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First Case: Using Continuous is much appropriate like "I was repairing my car" because once you said "I repaired my car", it means you completed your work while you haven't.
Second Case: If you consider, that the day is almost over and nothing more could be done on that particular day, the statement "You should have cleaned your room ,what did you do ?" is right. As it is stated in question that she is asking about messy room on Next day, then "You should have cleaned your room ,what did you do ?" is perfect.

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  • so in the second case you would never ask "What were you doing?" maybe if you know the person had all day free?for example "What were you doing the whole afternoon ?" etc.
    – Pato
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 19:06
  • In that context the question,"what were you doing?" means "what else (other than cleaning up the mess) were you doing?" It is a rhetorical question in the sense that the person asking it does not really want to know the answer, but just wishes to express her emotion that you have wasted your time when it could have been spent clearing up the mess.
    – JeremyC
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 21:40
  • My intention in this context is to know what happend cause you didnt clean your room .So when my mom wants to know it (not rhetorical question) is it ok asking "What were you doing?" instead of using past simple in this case ?.My answer would for example "I didnt have time,watched tv,played game on PC etc".
    – Pato
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 17:19

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