What made us really believe we could start a band was seeing the flatmates when they started.

I don't understand very well the reason for the past continuous "was seeing" in this sentence. I don't think in this case it means the action was in progress; I think it means that the author saw the flatmates playing many times during and after the flatmates started. Am I right?

1 Answer 1


What's confusing you is that this is not a past continuous construction.

In English, the gerund can be used to form a past continuous with "was":

 He was walking down the street, minding his own business, when the grapefruit hit him.

However, it can also be used to create a verbal noun:

His hobby is sitting.

If we are talking about the past, we might form the past tense with "was":

John was a lazy bastard; his hobby was sitting.

But that doesn't change the fact that "sitting" is acting as a verbal noun. It is not a past continuous.

In the same way, your sentence is using "seeing" as part of a verbal noun phrase. For example: if you were to say:

What inspired us was heroin.

"Heroin" is a noun, the object of the sentence, and the verb in the sentence is "was."

Similary, when you say:

What inspired us was listening.

"Listening" is a verbal noun formed with a gerund, and the verb is still "was," not "was listening."

Tack on a prepositional phrase:

What inspired us was listening to our flatmates

"Listening to our flatmates" is a verbal noun phrase. There's no implication of continuous action here; the verb is the simple past "was."

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .