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I'm confused about this one. Please help choose past or past continuous tense and explain your answer. Thanks.

When I came home yesterday, all the cats were sleeping. But at night, while I was sleeping, they played/were playing loudly and disturbed/were disturbing us all.

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  • I think both tenses work, depending on whether you want to convey the idea of a long-lasting situation, in that case you just use the past continuous, if not, use the simple form to imply that short actions were done one after another.
    – Schwale
    Jul 10, 2016 at 17:18

3 Answers 3

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As a foreign English-speaker, using past tense in the second part of the sentence makes more sense to me.

It wouldn't be wrong to use past continuous tense but it sounds awkward. IMO, it would be more balanced if you use past tense instead of past continuous tense.

When I came home yesterday, all the cats were sleeping. But at night, while I was sleeping, they played loudly and disturbed us all.

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Both are correct. Which one is better depends on what else you are trying to say.

In your example by itself without any context I would use “playing” to describe the event and delimit its time and then use “disturbed” to describe the consequences of the event. This is all a matter of style and personal preference any other combination is grammatically correct.

The past-continuous tense is better if you want to limit the time-frame to when the event was happening but the simple-past is better if you want a more general description of the past.

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Supposedly it could be either ways depending on your intention and they way you'd describe it. If you feel like the cats were playing considering the durarion then it could best describe it.

I guess if you have a look to the below diagram which explains time tenses you'd have some ideas about and finally you'd make it out.

Time Tenses

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