What were you wearing at the party? (wear)

I found this sentence in an exercise (past continuous or past simple) I would like to know why it is not past simple, does it mean that the person wore something special for the party, something he doesn't wear very often

other sentence from the same exercise

They were not doing much business after lunch (be) Why not past simple ? I don't have a clue


These are both fiendishly complicated sentences to use as an example of past continuous; I understand why you are confused.

The first sentence uses past continuous, indicating that you wore the same thing for the duration of the party.

What were you wearing at the party?

Past simple is also valid, with the same overall meaning, as the party is over (completed action):

What did you wear at the party?

For the second example, it does make a difference whether you use the PS or PC:

They were not doing much business after lunch

Past continuous means that, in the period immediately after lunch, they did not do much business.

They did not do much business after lunch

Past simple conveys the idea of a completed action in the past. It's not lunch, because it says after lunch, so we must assume that it's the end of the working day. This sentence therefore means that they did not do much business for the rest of the working day.

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The answer is "past continuous" because that's the form of the verb used in each. They were not written

What did you wear at the party?
They did not do much business after lunch.

These sentences do use the past simple, but notice the meaning hasn't changed significantly.

The difference between the two is one of aspect. In English, the past simple does not indicate whether an action is continuous or not, while the past continuous emphasizes that the action is continuous (hence the name). In both of these sentences, we simply aren't concerned with pinning down the exact amount of time of either activity.

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At the party and after lunch are considered to be the definite moments in the past like at five o'clock yesterday Past continuous is correct here.

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  • Yes but past continuous can be used to talk about a temporary situation at a definite time in the past: What were you doing at 5 o'clock? – Alejandro Mar 26 '16 at 15:46
  • And I am writing just about past continuous. – V.V. Mar 26 '16 at 15:58

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