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When I ask my friend about their previous day I could say

What did you do yesterday?

And he could answer

I played, watched and ate.

Could I say : What were you doing yesterday? And he answers I was playing, watching and eating?

Are both versions correct and natural?

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    I don't think either is particularly natural. You'd say "I played games, watched TV, and ate." Although not sure why you would need to say that you ate - do you often not eat all day? So not sure how best to phrase that. Whether you use simple past or past continuous depends on the nature of the activity and how long it lasts.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 29 at 11:15
  • Ok but both versions are acceptable? Jan 29 at 11:21
  • Perhaps it's a silly question but what does 88 in the title stand for?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 29 at 16:02
  • Nothing just a number Jan 29 at 22:22

1 Answer 1

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Well your friend would probably say what he played. Like did he play video games or did he play football? And he would almost surely say what he watched. At least say "I watched girls in the park" versus "I watched TV", and if the latter, maybe say what programs he watched. He'd probably say what he ate, as everybody eats sometime during the day so just saying "I ate" isn't very informative. Someone might answer in vague generalities if he wanted to make the point that is day was ordinary and boring and he did nothing unusual. But that wasn't the point of your question so whatever.

So real answer: Both tenses are valid and natural. It would not be jarring if the person answered with a different tense than the questoin. Like if you asked, "What did you do yesterday?", no one would be surprised if he answers, "Mostly I was playing video games."

If you are just asking for general information, you would likely say, "What did you do yesterday?" You would only say "What were you doing?" if you were contrasting what he did with some other event. Like, "Why didn't you come to the football game? What were you doing yesterday that was more fun than playing football?"

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  • Does it always work like that I mean what did you do: last week on Sundatyduring your holidat an so on. Here it's more natural to use simple past right? One more think you said "If you are just asking for general information, you would likely say, "What did you do yesterday?" You would only say "What were you doing?" if you were contrasting what he did with some other event. Like, "Why didn't you come to the football game? What were you doing yesterday that was more fun than playing football?" What if I say where were you doing yesterdy without any contrast. Is it a little akward but acceptab Jan 29 at 13:04
  • @Duppp It's grammatically correct and would be readily understood. My guess just from anecdotal experience is that it's not very common, few native speakers would say it that way. But no one would be likely to be confused by it or question it.
    – Jay
    Jan 29 at 15:58
  • thank you so much for the help I really do appreciate the effort. I have two more questions if you don't mind to answer them when you're free. 1 You state that it is more common to say "What did you do yesterday" than " What were you doing yesterdag" when it's just a general inquiry. Does it work the same way with the futute simple and continuous and " what will you do tomorrow" is more common than " what will you be doing tomorrow:? Jan 29 at 22:33
  • 2 when I say: "I played a game, watched TV and cooked". It implies one activity after another but when I use the past continuous it implies that these things happpened at the same time? Jan 29 at 22:39
  • future: Yes, it works the same way. Most native speakers would say, "What will you do tomorrow?"rather than "What will you be doing tomorrow?" But as noted above, both are acceptable and in practice mean the same thing.
    – Jay
    Jan 31 at 15:04

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