I was in the middle of doing an activity. The doing of something was in progress in the indefinite past. It must have started but it is not known if it ended.

However, I don't want to add any other activity or a specific time such as on Sunday, yesterday, or at noon

'I was doing' without further context seems wrong/incomplete because usually we say 'I was doing something on Sunday' or 'I was doing something when you called me'.

  • It seems that maybe you're trying to indicate that something has started, maybe without much (or any) more information about if it is continuing or has stopped. Would a reference to just that ("I already started it.") solve this problem? Dec 8, 2023 at 13:05

4 Answers 4


English doesn't have an imperfect. So you must choose one of the past tenses. The best is probably a continuous form, in a past tense "I was doing something".

However in specific contexts other ways of talking about the past may be better. "I did something", "I have done something".

Do not expect the English tenses to match up to the tenses in your language. In particular when translating imperfect verbs.


If you are doing it now, at the time you are asked, use the present continuous. "I am doing the thing."

If you are referring to a past time, when someone asked what you were doing and at the time you were engaged in this action, use the past continuous. "I was doing the thing."

If you need to be more specific about time frame, then a simple tense won't convey the idea. Add more words. "On Tuesday I was doing the thing but by Wednesday I was finished," or whatever.


I have been doing - Present Perfect Continuous

On reflection, this is not perfect because it suggests that the activity is either still on going or has ended recently.

There is no perfect solution with a simple sentence.


Another possibility is "I had started doing the activity." This means at some unspecified point in the past, you began the activity, without making mention of whether you finished it or whether you are still engaged in it.

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