1

Two similar situations.

The first one: I started painting a picture ten days ago. I haven't finished it yet. Everyday I've been painting my picture for half an hour.

The second one: I started painting a picture three months ago. I finished it one month ago. It took me two months to finish it. Everyday over the period of two months I paited my picture for half an hour.

If somebody asks me: What did you do yesterday/that day (in the middle)? What should I asnwer?

A: What did you do yesterday?

B: (in addition to other things) I painted my picture for half an hour. or I was painting my picture for half an hour.

and

A: What did you do that day? (two months ago in the middle of the process)

B: (in addition to other things) I painted my picture for half an hour. or I was painting my picture for half an hour.

5
  • 1
    I think most people would say "I worked on my picture/painting for half an hour every day". "I painted my picture" usually refers to the complete task. Jan 1, 2022 at 16:00
  • According to your words they meant the entrie book here 0:49 - 0:52 and here 1:04 - 1:09. It's a little strange that he said that William Shakespeare had written the entire book (that day). Thank you for your reply. Jan 1, 2022 at 16:09
  • 1
    The second one is not idiomatic English. If they mean the William Shakespeare, he wrote plays, not books, and in any case we wouldn't say 'he wrote a book' to mean that he spent some time working on whatever he was currently writing. It's true that people do sometimes say "I read a book" when they only had time to read part of it. Jan 1, 2022 at 16:37
  • He is a native English speaker from America. Is he mistaken using "He wrote a book" for not completed action? What about the first example? Jan 1, 2022 at 17:19
  • 1
    Native speaker or not, I find it very unnatural. My last sentence refers to the first link. (If the character is a child, she could possibly have read an entire children's book in a morning.) Jan 1, 2022 at 17:33

1 Answer 1

2

1: I started painting a picture ten days ago. I haven't finished it yet. Everyday I've been painting my picture for half an hour.

2: I started painting a picture three months ago. I finished it one month ago. It took me two months to finish it. Everyday over the period of two months I painted my picture for half an hour.

If somebody asks me: What did you do yesterday/that day (in the middle)? What should I answer?

1: A: What were you doing yesterday?

You: “I was painting.

2: “What were you doing between September and October?”

You: “I was painting a picture.”

1a: A: What did you do yesterday?

You: “I painted.”

2a: “What did you do between September and October?”

You: “I was painting a picture.” (The continuous is used as the action was not complete at the time referred to.)

2b: “What did you do in November?”

You: “I finished painting a picture.”

You will note that answers are usually (but not always) given in the same verb form as the question.

13
  • Is it OK to say "I wrote a book / I read a book / I drew a picture / I built a ship / I knitted a sweater" about yesterday if I didn't finish it yesterday? For instance: Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Monalisa for four years. On one of the days in the middle he just painted it for a while and postponed continuation for another day. A: What did you do yesterday? B: I read a book. (I neither started nor finished yesterday) Jan 1, 2022 at 17:23
  • 1
    We cannot answer questions without context. It is not possible to over-stress the importance of context in English - in Russian it may not matter, but it is vital in English. Thus, Is it OK to say "I wrote a book / I read a book cannot be answered because there is no context. In the example where there is context Leonardo could say "I read a book" and this makes no comment about whether he finished it.
    – user81561
    Jan 1, 2022 at 17:33
  • 1a: A: What did you do yesterday? You: “I painted.” A: What did you paint? What should I answer if I didn't finish it yesterday? Jan 1, 2022 at 21:31
  • @IlyaTretyakov Why would that even matter? The question asked is in the simple past without any progressive aspect to it. You must therefore answer the same way. It doesn't matter whether you finished painting: you slept since then and are not painting now as the question is asked. Even if you were still doing so and hadn't stopped, you would have to answer in the simple past. You can't answer a question asked using the perfective aspect of completion with a verb in the imperfect or incomplete aspect.
    – tchrist
    Jan 1, 2022 at 22:29
  • @IlyaTretyakov You seem to be looking for absolute rules on the use of verb forms. You are wasting your time. There are no rules in English: there is only guidance. Some guidance may look like a rule... it isn't. You should accept all the answers as guidance and apply them using context and your knowledge of English.
    – user81561
    Jan 2, 2022 at 14:44

You must log in to answer this question.

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