The past simple, past simple progressive, past perfect and the present perfect have been giving me the worst of all headaches recently. Can anyone correct me on this, please?

Let's say that I decided to set aside 2 hours yesterday to study, would it be correct to say: I was studying for 2 hours yesterday? Is it wrong to use the past continuous to emphasize the duration of something that was taking place at a certain point in the past?

Would it also be correct if I say: I was working for 2 hours yesterday, when something else interrupted me?

why is it correct or incorrect?

Can you also suggest a book that may help me with this?

  • It seems like you have it down. Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 20:04

1 Answer 1


That's right.

You can say I studied for two hours yesterday or I was studying for two hours yesterday. Both are equally natural, and can be used in identical circumstances. In one case you are choosing to present the study as a completed action, in the other as a continuing action (not necessarily long).

If you are setting the time during which something else happened, as in your second example, the continuous form is much more natural. But I find the "for two hours" odd there, because since something else interrupted you, you presumably didn't work for two hours.

  • 1
    I had been working for two hours when......
    – anouk
    Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 16:34

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