I noticed that people sometimes use "was" in the past tense where the sentence would also make sense without it. For example, "The paperweight was preventing the documents from blowing away" versus "The paperweight prevented the documents from blowing away." It's like... past imperfect? I'm sorry if this is a dumb question. I genuinely don't know the difference and Google isn't helping.

  • The issue is not "was" but the "ing" verb. Jan 18 at 22:22
  • 2
    Sorry, I was wrong about that. Passive voice would be "The documents were prevented from blowing away by the paperweight." Your example is past progressive or past continuous.
    – Barmar
    Jan 19 at 0:03
  • They still mean about the same thing. The past progressive makes it clearer that this was an ongoing action rather than a one time occurrence.
    – Barmar
    Jan 19 at 0:05

1 Answer 1


They convey slightly different meanings. The first sentence implies that the action of preventing the documents finished in the past, while the second sentence implies that the action was ongoing at some point in the past.

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