Awhile ago I had to write a short first person piece in my English class- everyone did- and then we could volunteer to read them out loud. Since no one was doing anything, I decided to act and read mine. It wasn't very good at all, but there was a particular moment that caught me off guard.

I was describing myself finding a letter and how I felt about it and then my reaction upon reading it, and I got to a part where I was saying how I had been anticipating this letter, and that's when the teacher stopped me, and a kid from the back called out "that's first person progressive"

Never having heard of progressive before, I was extremely confused, but got no clarification from him or the teacher. Instead, the teacher just motioned me to continue and I did.

I've since looked up what first person progressive is, and I'm pretty sure I understand it, but I don't understand why they stopped me in my story. (This was two years ago)

So, like my question states, is it incorrect to use a progressive line in a first person narrative? Does it differ from first person? It just seems weird to me, because in writing first person, it's almost like you're just talking. Kind of like how I am now, and we say things like "I will do this" "will be doing this" "had done this" all the time. But grammatically speaking I guess, is it okay to use in narration?

closed as off-topic by Mari-Lou A, choster, Kristina Lopez, curiousdannii, kiamlaluno Oct 17 '17 at 5:29

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  • 2
    You have described the circumstances, but not what you actually said which caused the interruption. Did you actually read out "I had been anticipating this letter"? Or "I am anticipating this letter"? – Andrew Leach Oct 13 '17 at 20:50
  • I said "I had been anticipating this letter" @Andrew Leach – W.Richardson Oct 14 '17 at 4:26
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is fundamentally asking for writing advice, and we have no way to verify whether the critique/observation made at the time was relevant or not. The OP could ask their Q over at SE Writers – Mari-Lou A Oct 15 '17 at 7:45
  • @Mari-LouA I am arguing against this because I am asking about the fundamentals of first person progressive – W.Richardson Oct 15 '17 at 18:58

I had been anticipating

is a past perfect progressive which means that an ongoing action in the past has ended. I'm presuming your teacher stopped you because you probably didn't read the letter yet so you would be still anticipating in the first person narrative. The present perfect progressive 'have been' would be more appropriate.

Though, I don't see why it can't be used as there are examples of past perfect progressive sentences in a first person narrative:

I had been walking

I had been sleeping

I think she was just talking about the way it was used due to how she understood the context. Though, I don't see why it can't either way, as your [anticipation] could of climaxed when you saw the letter or at the 'notion' of opening the letter; as the build-up is finally over and you can read what is in it. But, I guess the 'anticipation' is never really over until you 'find' out.

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