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  1. Last summer I traveled through China.
  2. Last summer I was traveling through China.

What's the difference between 1 and 2, and why?

Please explain the nuance...

2 Answers 2

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There is no difference whatever in the objective events referred to.

The difference is entirely in whether the speaker is choosing to present the travelling as a completed act or a continuing one.

In some circumstances, this may have no further significance; but it may be setting the temporal focus for what follows (eg if the next sentence is a simple past, then 2 sets up an expectation that this occurred during the journey, whereas 1 does not. This expectation is not forced, and can be overridden by explicit time markers).

The difference could have a story-telling function: if a speaker uses 2, they may be inviting the hearer to mentally journey along with them, whereas 1 may invite distancing from the journey.

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  • thank you for your help!
    – James
    2 days ago
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I think the first sentence simply states the fact that your journey took place without indicating any intention to discus what happened during that trip.

For example: "If you want to know whether I've ever been to China then yes, last summer, I traveled through China."

On the other hand, the second sentence sounds like you are going to talk about something that happened while you were traveling through China.

For example: "Last summer, I was traveling through China when the whole Great Wall crumbled, because it was just too old."

Also, the second sentence could mean that you spent the whole last summer traveling through China.

For example: "Last summer, I was traveling through China. It took me all summer to cross but hey, I'm a snail, so it was actually pretty fast."

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  • thank you for your help. !
    – James
    2 days ago

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