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I usually say "It's been two weeks since i spoke with him" to mean that i spoke with him 2 weeks ago. Is it grammatically correct to use the past progressive (I was speaking with him) instead?

  • I know how to use the past simple and the past progressive. The purpose of my question is to know whether it's correct to use the conjunction since with the expression "it's been + time + since + past progressive". Isn't it confusing? To me, grammatically speaking, we should say ," it's been 2 weeks since I spoke with him" . – Khan Aug 28 '15 at 12:18
  • This question arose from ell.stackexchange.com/questions/65151/… – aparente001 Aug 29 '15 at 15:44
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To use the progressive here, you would have to be providing a descriptive backdrop for something dramatic to happen. For example,

Two weeks ago, I was chatting with my friend, when the house began to shake and all the crockery fell off the shelves.

Just to report how long it's been since you've spoken with your friend, do not use a progressive tense.

(This is something my German spouse struggles mightily with. You are not alone.)

  • apparentie001, Actually, I want to know if the sentence "it's been two weeks since I was speaking with him" is OK grammatically . If it's so, what does the sentence mean"?I think it's no grammar. There's a sentence on ELL "it's been 6 hours since I was waiting for you" that has been heavily upvoted. If means it's OK to native speakers. Thanks. – Khan Aug 26 '15 at 18:25
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    @Khan - No, it just doesn't work. Thank you for pointing me to that ELL question. Your answer there was spot on. I wrote another one saying the same thing, but with more oomph, which I hope will get people's attention. I would suggest that you link to the ELL question in your question here. – aparente001 Aug 27 '15 at 4:53
  • aparente001, I am satisfied with your answer on ELL. I am not hungry for upvotes; if I am wrong, my answer must be downvoted. The purpose of this site is to guide English Learners by telling them in simple words how to construct sentences that are correct both in informal and formal English. I am at a loss how wrong answers go unnoticed at a site where there are many users who have an authority on the language. – Khan Aug 27 '15 at 7:42
  • @Khan - That's a great question. Perhaps ELL Meta would be a good place to ask that. If you decide to post it there, please post a comment here with an aparente001 tag so I'll notice. Thanks. – aparente001 Aug 27 '15 at 19:31
  • aparente001, Thanks yoy for enlightening English Learners. I think it's no use approaching ELL Meta. It's already clear that most of the native speakers approve of the sentence that is grammatically incorrect to us. However, being a non native speaker , I can't go intentionally against grammar. – Khan Aug 28 '15 at 7:51
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A time definite ("two weeks ago") and the simple past ("I spoke") give a specific point in past time of your last conversation with him. The past progressive ("I was speaking") indicates an ongoing action and thus implies an interval, which is somewhat incompatible with the specific point two weeks ago.

If you want to indicate that you used to have ongoing conversations during an interval before a particular past point, use the past perfect progressive:

Up until two weeks ago I had been speaking with him regularly.

  • Deadrat, So it's OK grammatically if we say it's been 2 weeks since I was speaking with him, which implies that I was speaking with him two weeks ago. – Khan Aug 26 '15 at 9:45
  • @Khan I don't think so. The clash between a definite point (2 week ago) and the interval implied by the progressive form ("was speaking") is likely to confuse your reader. – deadrat Aug 26 '15 at 9:52
  • deadrat, What I understand from your answer is that the sentence "it's been two weeks since I was speaking with him" is grammatically correct but its meaning is different from the meaning of "it's been two weeks since I spoke with him. Is it right ? – Khan Aug 27 '15 at 12:47
  • @Khan There are some rules of English grammar that everyone agrees are correct. You can't say "John loves Mary" to mean that it's Mary who has the affection for John. But there's no official set of rules and no arbiter to enforce them. I think your example in formal writing is not idiomatic for the reason noted in my previous comment. Because of that I can only guess that the progressive form indicates that you used to have extended conversations with him. – deadrat Aug 27 '15 at 19:15
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But there is a difference and both are correct but it differs in the nuance conveyed, whether you think this through as a native speaker or not... The sentence, I was in NY last week and was speaking with him or I was in Ny week and spoke with him are indeed different, the first suggests a narrative reliving the moment and the experience of being there and often more narrative of that event in that real time "ing" will convey that and flesh out the alive conversation. You are revisiting the moment.. I spoke with him is a simple declarative past and the generic description of something done completed, stands on its on , is neutral

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