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I can't remember to hear "I hoped..." in any movie I've watched. I always hear "I was hoping..." when people talk. Nevertheless I know both forms are correct in terms of grammar. So when "I hoped" is more proper then "I was hoping" and vice versa?

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    I ate, I was eating - what is the difference? – Blessed Geek Oct 18 '13 at 7:26
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In typical narratives about past events the past simple is the default tense. However, if the speaker wishes to convey the ongoing nature of the past action or state, then the past continuous can be used. For example:

In the days before the wedding I was hoping that the weather would be good.

You might also have encountered the past continuous more often because it is commonly used as a stock phrase to formulate a polite request.

I was hoping you could lend me some money

is more tentative than:

Can you lend me some money?

  • I see. That is why I often hear "I was hoping" in typical movies, because characters just talk during the film and narratives are not so frequent as in books. I hope my thinking is correct ;-). – AEterna Oct 18 '13 at 6:06
  • Yes, I'm pretty sure your thinking is correct. You could confirm your hypothesis by noting the context next time you hear the expression in a film or real life. – Shoe Oct 18 '13 at 6:21
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"I hoped" and "I was hoping" are almost interchangeable, however there is a slight tendency for "I hoped" to indicate a more fundamental and longer term desire than "I was hoping" which has a tendency to indicate something more immediate and transitory.

For example one would probably say "When I chose to study accountacy and business practice I hoped for a career in the financial sector" but go on to say "When I applied to PWC I was hoping to be taken on as a graduate trainee".

Another example would be "As a twenty-something I hoped to find a loving wife some day" as opposed to "As our wedding day approached I was hoping that the weather would be fine". The first is longer term, more fundamental and more abstract whereas the second is more shorter term, more concrete and more specific.

However these are slight differences in emphasis, not hard and fast rules.

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'I had hoped', 'I was hoping', I am hoping, and I hoped are all just different ways of saying the same thing. It is all just different phrasing. When speaking you can use the past or present tense because you can only hope up unto the point of knowing.

  • I'm sorry the examples you have given are not "different ways" of saying the same thing. They are different tenses, or if you prefer, times that specifically tell us when the action happened. A different way of saying "I hope" might be "I want" or "I wish". – Mari-Lou A Oct 18 '13 at 7:49
  • Incorrect. They may sometimes all refer to the same circumstances, but they mean different things. -1 – Colin Fine Oct 18 '13 at 10:18
  • No, Mari-Lou, they do not always distinguish when the action happened. I hoped and I was hoping may refer to exactly the same circumstance at exactly the same time, but the different aspect expresses a difference in how we are describing the circumstances. – Colin Fine Oct 18 '13 at 10:21
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I see it as "I had hoped" means you had thought it could happen but realise now it wont. "I am hoping" means there is still a chance of it happening.

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