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I'm reading about how to use "when" and "while" with past continuous and past simple tense. I quite understand about them.

But there are another examples using "but" to join past continuous and past simple tense. I don't understand about them. Here are those sentences.

  1. I waved to Helen, but she wasn't looking.
  2. I was watching a good movie, but I fell asleep before the end.

In this cases I didn't understand why sometimes the tense after " but' was past tense and sometimes was past continuous tense. Plus, what is the appropriate tense before "but"?

Is there rules about this? Or does it depend on verb after "but"?

For the second sentence I quite understand why we have to use past tense. For, the first example I don't really get it. Can the first sentence be " I waved to Helen, but she didn't look?"?

  • "In the past, I waved to Helen. But while I was waving, she was not looking." – WendiKidd Sep 4 '13 at 16:45
  • Thank you WendiKidd. I get your example. It 's easy to understand. – nkm Sep 4 '13 at 17:02
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All of these are grammatical, but they mean different things. It is very similar to the case without the "but":

I looked vs. I was looking.

Do you get this difference?

EDIT

Given your response:

Yes "I waved to Helen, but she wasn't looking" is grammatical, so is "I waved to Helen, but she didn't look". They are slightly different in meaning. The former means she was looking at something else, before, during and after I waved. The latter means that my waving didn't attract her attention.

  • Thank you Peter Flom. I quite get this difference. However for my example I don't get it. I wonder we can just say " she didn't look" or not. Plus, for "I waved to Helen, but she wasn't looking" it's really correct or not to use past continuous tense. – nkm Sep 4 '13 at 17:08
  • For your explanations, "The former means she was looking at something else, before, during and after I waved.The latter means that my waving didn't attract her attention" Your explanations are so clear and useful. I get it now. Thank you so much! I really appreciate for your help. – nkm Sep 5 '13 at 2:17

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