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a) As she was opening her presents, so was I.

b) As she was opening her presents, so did I.

I think (b) means something slightly different and implies that I started and finished while she was opening her presents.

I'd say it means the same as c. I opened my present while she was opening hers.

Her action probably but not certainly takes longer than mine in that case.

Is that correct?

Many thanks.

3 Answers 3

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You are perhaps reading more into this than is there.

Unless it is clear from context that she never completed opening her presents, then there is no difference in meaning between the two sentences.

She was opening … as did I

implies some degree of simultaneity

She was opening … as was I

also implies some degree of simultaneity.

Both sentences are in a formal register, and that register is often associated with careful expression. If the writer is being careful, I agree that “as did I” should imply a lesser degree of simultaneity than does “as I was,” but, because people are not always scrupulously careful, I’d be reluctant to conclude that such an implication was intended. To put it a different way, although the different structures ought to, and may in fact, imply slightly different meanings, they do not necessarily do so. Even careful writers are not always careful. Sometimes we can be overly subtle in attributing different intended meanings to equally idiomatic forms.

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    We don't say, "She was doing something, as did I". We say, "She was doing something, as was I" or "She did something, as did I". Sep 8, 2022 at 4:17
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In this context, "as" can mean "because" or "while". Without a context that clearly indicates the meaning, both sentences are ambiguous. We can only guess which is correct by looking at the meanings.

Both "while" sentences have roughly the same meaning and make sense. However, the "because" sentences are different, and only one makes sense, so let's look at those.

a) Because she was opening her presents, I was opening mine.

Two past continuous tenses in the same sentence means that they happen at the same time, and not that one happens because of the other. But in this sentence, the two are linked with "because". Since one is not the cause of the other, it suggests that logically, if one thing is happening, the other must be happening too, like, if she was opening her presents, it necessarily means I was opening mine too. This meaning is strange, so it's probably not the intended meaning.

b) Because she was opening her presents, I opened mine.

When you have a simple past clause with a past continuous clause, the simple past clause begins after and often because of the continuous clause. This makes sense here, because the two are joined with "because". So it makes sense that when I saw she was opening her presents that I started opening mine too.

That said, the "while" meaning works with both sentences, so it's still not clear what the writer's intent was.

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  • Thank you all so much! Fantastic replies.
    – azz
    Sep 8, 2022 at 5:56
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a) As she was opening her presents, so was I.

That means: She was opening her presents and I was opening mine, both of us at the same time.

b) As she was opening her presents, so did I.

That means: As she was doing that, I did the same thing.

However, generally for speaking forms: So + aux+ pronoun or neither/nor + aux + pronoun uses the auxiliary verb based on the verb from main clause.

  • She has spent a lot of money. So have I.
  • They don't go to school here. Nor do you.
  • They have been wasting my time. So has he.

It is less usual for the tense to change in the so/nor phrase as in b) above.

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