I ran across the following sentence in an ESL textbook (by Jack C. Richards): "I was going to auditions". It was used to say what the subject would do for some time after college.

However, almost every grammar source I've seen claims that only "Simple Past", "used to" and "would" can be used for habitual past.

Can anyone explain the use of Past Progressive in the sentence above?

marked as duplicate by Matt E. Эллен, RyeɃreḁd, tchrist, Hellion, Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Apr 30 '14 at 12:56

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That isn't the habitual aspect.

The habitual ("I would go to auditions", "I used to go to auditions" or the unmarked "I went to auditions") refers to something that happened repeatedly (or happens repeatedly or will happen repeated, in use with other tenses).

The progressive is used to state that something was (is/will be) happening at the time.

The classic example is something like "I was reading a book when the phone rang" where the continuous action is constant, especially if then interrupted (permanently or temporarily) by an action in a subsequent clause).

However, it can also be used of repeated actions that are thought of as the continual state the subject is in. Hence if I say "I was working a crappy job when I got a lucky break", I don't mean that I was working that job constantly 24/7 (even the worse jobs allow occasional breaks for sleeping and eating) or necessarily that I was actually at work when the lucky break happened, but that my repeatedly working that job (which we can express in the habitual as "I used to work a crappy job") describes the general state that was the context for what else happened (the lucky break in this case).

As such, while the progressive "I was going to auditions" isn't the same as the habitual, it can still express repeated actions because we're thinking of those actions not as a series of separate incidents, but as a continuous action.


Past progessive can describe continuous uninterrupted action or an action that is repetitive, but not continuous as in: At that time I was working in a bank and travelling to London every day. "used to do" or "would do" are used to describe habits. But they are not the only means of indicating habits.

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