If someone is stopped by the police for speeding, and I am talking about it later that day, which is the best option:

He was stopped because he:

  • was driving too fast
  • had been driving too fast
  • drove too fast?

I know the past continuous is used for an action going on for some time in the past, the past perfect continuous for an action happening before another action in the past and the past simple for something happening in the past, but I would like to know if all three are possible, or not.

closed as off-topic by Rob_Ster, David, Nigel J, jimm101, Mari-Lou A Dec 12 '17 at 19:42

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"He was stopped because he was driving too fast."

In the context you described, this sounds the most natural.

"He was stopped because he had been driving too fast."

This makes sense, too, but it could mean that when he was stopped he was not driving too fast ... perhaps not even driving at all! Perhaps some time before being stopped, he was driving too fast.

"He was stopped because he drove too fast."

Using the preterite (drove) here sounds a little strange, unless what you were saying was, "He was a fast driver. That's why he was stopped."

If you were referring to a particular event that involved speeding, though, using the preterite would be correct. For example ...

"He was stopped because he drove too fast through the intersection."

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