1

We often avoid repeating the continuous form, do we? Like you say

  • What do you think you are doing?

instead of

  • What are you thinking you are doing?

How about the following sentences?

  1. I wasn't listening carefully to what the teacher was saying.
  2. I wasn't listening carefully to what the teacher said.
  3. I didn't listen carefully to what the teacher was saying.
  4. I didn't listen carefully to what the teacher said.

Which one do you think is the most natural? How should I choose which one to use?

5
  • Where did you hear we reduce repetition of continuous forms? I've never heard of such a rule.
    – gotube
    Jul 22, 2023 at 18:43
  • I didn't say it's a rule. I said you often avoid repetition of continuous forms. You usually say "What do you think you are doing?" instead of "What are you thinking you are doing?", don't you?
    – kuwabara
    Jul 23, 2023 at 1:31
  • Continuous is simply incorrect for "think" in that context. Nobody is avoiding anything. The verb "think" with the meaning "hold an opinion" is a state verb, not an action verb, so it's rarely in the continuous.
    – gotube
    Jul 23, 2023 at 4:21
  • >>it's rarely in the continuous. I don't think so. We very often here people say "What are you thinking?" "Think" can be used as an action verb, and is very often used in the continuous form.
    – kuwabara
    Jul 23, 2023 at 12:13
  • Some verbs like "think" have two different meanings, and with one meaning it's a state verb, and with the other meaning it's an action verb. In "What do you think you're doing?", "think" is a state verb roughly meaning "believe". In "What are you thinking?", "think" is an action verb roughly meaning "actively consider or ponder".
    – gotube
    Jul 24, 2023 at 8:03

1 Answer 1

1

They are all equally 'natural', depending on what you are trying to say.

I wasn't listening carefully to what the teacher was saying could describe your state of mind during a boring lesson.

I didn't listen carefully to what the teacher said could be the reason why you missed an important item of information, such as the departure time for a school trip.

3
  • The present continuous version describes the situation during the speaking event. The past simple descibes the situation as completed. Jul 22, 2023 at 11:24
  • I understand about 1 and 4. How about 2 and 3? Do you ever use them? If yes, in what kind of situation?
    – kuwabara
    Jul 22, 2023 at 11:31
  • The two examples I picked were the 'extremes' (both past simple or both continuous tense). You can 'mix and match' according to what you want to say about yourself and whether the teacher was talking for a long time or conveying a single item of information. Jul 22, 2023 at 11:38

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