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What is the difference between "When the teacher entered, the boys were all looking out the window." and "When the teacher entered, the boys all looked out the window."? Can someone please explain it?

Thanks

  • 3
    One suggests the boys were already looking out the window when the teacher entered, the other suggests they did so once the teacher entered. – Matthew Jan 30 '19 at 15:54
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When the teacher entered, the boys were all looking out the window.

The teacher's enterance interrupts the boys action of looking out the window. They were already doing it when the teacher entered.

When the teacher entered, the boys all looked out the window.

The teacher entered and then the boys looked out the window (but they were not looking before the teacher entered).

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  • It might be worth mentioning the difference between 'I [action]' and 'I am [action]ing', which in German are the same (guessing based on asker's screen name). E.g. 'Ich trinke' could mean 'I drink' or 'I am drinking'. – Maclain Anderson Jan 30 '19 at 20:06
  • @mac Your point about German uses the present simple & continuous tenses. The question is about things that occurred in the past tense. Can you clarify the two relate? – Rykara Jan 30 '19 at 22:57
  • Well my German is extremely shaky, but it seems analogous to me, just in the past tense. Is there a difference in German between 'they were looking' and 'they looked'? If not, then that might be the source of confusion. – Maclain Anderson Jan 31 '19 at 12:59
  • @mac. I am not familiar with more than survival words/phrases in German. If the OP is indeed German (very reasonable assumption) and what you say would help clarify, it might be better if you provided an answer with more info about the possible tense confusion given your knowledge and familiarity. :-) – Rykara Jan 31 '19 at 17:48

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