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Are both of these sentences correct?

I was heading to the city.

I was headed to the city.

If both are correct, is there any difference between them?

  • Please include your research about this, as well as your own ideas and theories that have brought this question to your mind. You may wish to visit our site for English Language Learners. – tchrist Nov 27 '17 at 0:13
  • When you visit the ELL site, you may find that the two expressions are correct, but mean slightly different things. In the progressive form, the speaker gives emphasis to the act of traveling over direction, while in the participial form the speaker may be more concerned with direction. Or you may not. – Rob_Ster Nov 27 '17 at 0:27
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Both are correct, but mean different things. In the sentence, "I was heading to the city", the speaker is using past progressive form. This form could be used in multiple ways with different meaning based on context. For example, "I was heading to the city before I found out about the rigorous screening necessary to enter it". Here, the past auxiliary verb (was) implies that he or she did not complete the task of going to the city. The progressive main verb (heading) implies that the action started in the past and was ongoing or in the process of happening at some other point in the past. The past progressive form may also be used to describe something habitual. For example, "He was always heading to the city". Here, the past progressive form means that he was often traveling toward the city- whether or not he got there is again unknown. Without context, one only knows that the action of heading to a city started and was in the process of happening at the time referenced by the speaker.

In the sentence, "I was headed to the city", the speaker uses simple form. Here, the verb form also implies that he or she did not complete the task of going to city; however, the simple form of the main verb (headed) doesn't necessarily imply the action started. One could interpret the simple form to mean that the action never began in the first place. For example, "I was headed to the city before I read the weather report." One could interpret this sentence to mean that the speaker intended to head to the city, but never started his travels because he was dismayed by the weather report. One could also interpret this sentence to mean that he started to travel and at some point in time (in the past), changed his intention. Examine the same sentence with "to head" in past progressive form, "I was heading to the city before I read the weather report". The major distinction is that in simple form, it is possible to interpret the action as something that never started and in progressive form, the action must be interpreted as something that started in the past and was ongoing or in the process of happening at some point in the past referred to by the speaker.

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