I was studying past tenses and this sentence showed up,

when I....... (walk),
I suddenly realized
that I had left my keys at home

Now the answer was walked, but it didn't make since to me, I thought that the verb walk will imply the continuity in this context, so is it right or should we always use simple tenses after when?

  • What is the source of this sample sentence please? It does not sound like something a native speaker would say. May 31, 2021 at 21:20
  • "As I was walking" could also be used. That is the past continuous form. May 31, 2021 at 21:24
  • EFL students study while and when more or less at the same time @GArthurBrown May 31, 2021 at 21:26
  • "When I walked" is wrong. "When I was walking" (past continuous) is correct. Have you studied past continuous yet?
    – gotube
    May 31, 2021 at 21:34
  • I did, and I answered it using the past continuous, but the answer they had put seemed weird to me. May 31, 2021 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


In EFL, we usually dictate:

While + progressive


While I was walking, I suddenly realized I had left my keys at home

This emphasizes the idea of 'continuous action' interrupted by a 'sudden action'

When + a sudden past-tense action indicates more or less the same when used like this...

I was walking down the street when I suddenly realized I had left my keys at home.

  • So aren't there any exceptions to this rule? Jun 1, 2021 at 4:32
  • @Khaled Oqab "So aren't there any exceptions to this rule?" Whilst I was looking at this problem on the internet I unfortunately found many "teaching English sites" that do not seem to know a great deal about the English Language. So my answer to you would be, do you want to learn correct English or just want to write whatever you feel like? Then find someone who agrees with you. Both options seem to be available. I appreciate it is difficult to learn English, however my advice is to not to try to make it harder than it already is.
    – Brad
    Jun 1, 2021 at 9:12
  • @Brad thank you, unfortunately in my home country so many "English teachers" treat English as if it was mathematics, they rarely provide a clear context, and in many questions they will (as I believe the case in the one I mentioned) use weird structures of sentences, so I want to know whether the problem is with my understanding or is it with the question itself Jun 1, 2021 at 10:13
  • @Khaled Oqab, Cascabel has given, what is in my opinion a good answer. Sudden past-tense action....When-walked; while-walking ......"When I walked to my car I suddenly realised that I had left my keys at home"....... "While I was walking, to my car I suddenly realized I had left my keys at home".
    – Brad
    Jun 4, 2021 at 0:12

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