Is there a difference when the adverbs 'always, continually,forever,etc..' are used with past simple and past progressive?

For example :

  1. He always/ continually worked there.
  2. He was always/ continually working there.

(What is the difference between the above two sentences?)

3 Answers 3


Let's say that a colleague mistakenly believes that Joe is a new hire. We might say:

Joe has always worked here.

to mean nothing more than the fact that Joe is not a new employee. He has been here for some while.

If we want to say that Joe never slacked off when he was working at Acme Widgets, but always took his job seriously and gave it his best effort:

Joe was always working when he was at Acme Widgets.

  • Nice explanation on "was always working". But has always worked is in the Present Perfect. What is we use the Past Simple: "Joe always worked here."? What would be the difference? Would this sentence be strange? Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 7:38
  • 1
    Joe always worked here = "Joe never worked elsewhere", e.g. Joe had uninterrupted employment at this company, i.e. he never left to work elsewhere, even for a brief while. If the emphasis is on "here", it could mean, "This was Joe's desk|workstation for the entire time that he worked for the company."
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 12:27

Sometimes, we use the past continuous as an alternative to the past simple for repeated or routine actions, with a little difference in meaning.

He always/continually worked there.

He was always/continually working there.

The first sentence literally implies that he always worked there, whereas, the second sentence does not literally mean so. It conveys the sense that he appeared to be always working there. In other words, it implies that he was seen to be working there very often.


/simple past/ means perfect or done. /always/ can be used in past form when we want to emphasize the event.

past progressive follows simple past. for ex: I was reading a novel when he knocked the door. you could also say: He knocked the door while I was reading a novel.

as long as I know, adverb of freq /always/ is not good to place in past prog. tense

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