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Could you explain why in bold is necessary to use Past Continuous, not Past Simple. Because of "to get ready" and "to joke" are always processes or why?

Sorry I’m late. My phone rang three times while I was getting ready to go out.

Sorry I’m late. My phone rang three times while I got ready to go out. (Is it not correct?)

When I first told Tom what happened, he didn’t believe me. He thought that I was joking.

When I first told Tom what happened, he didn’t believe me. He thought that I joked. (Is it not correct?)

TIA

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  • [Question form: Why does x have to be used? and: Can you explain why x is used in y?]
    – Lambie
    Apr 24 at 20:50
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There are different uses for past continuous:

  • Interrupted Action in the Past
  • Specific Time as an Interruption
  • Parallel Actions
  • Atmosphere
  • Repetition and Irritation with "Always"

In your first example the action "getting ready" was interrupted by the action "the phone rang".

Reference: https://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/pastcontinuous.html

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    Compare The phone rang while I was getting ready to go out (continuous action interrupted) with As she had dressed earlier, my wife looked up our route on the street plan while I got ready to go out (two actions happening concurrently). Jul 19 '20 at 9:29
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    It is the same for joking. Tom's belief is that the narrator began a joke, but then Tom said he did not believe the story, before the narrator finished. Therefore, "joking" is a continuing event during the time that Tom said he did not believe it.
    – epl
    Jul 19 '20 at 9:29
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    I've seen expressions such as "You jest!" (joke) and "You lie!" in texts from several centuries ago, but today we would always say "You're joking" and "You're lying". Jul 19 '20 at 9:34

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