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While i was doing did my homework

while I was doing my homework, she

While I know that Past Progressive is usually used for simultaneous past actions, past actions already in progress, or for emphasise on the past actions progress. Based on these rules I can’t understand how to complete the empty fields in the below exercise:

Last night, while I was doing my homework, Angela ( _____. She said she ( _____ me on her cell phone from her biology classroom at UCLA. I asked her if she (3.wait) _____ for class, but she said that the professor was at the front of the hall lecturing while she ( _____ to me. I couldn’t believe she (5.make) _____ a phone call during the lecture.

Could someone explaine me based on the above rules how to complete the sentenses, and why to choose Past Progressive and not Past Simple?

Uncle Jack
Senior Member

You should say which options you think are correct.

What may help is that (2), (3) and (4) are all reported speech, so you might like to think instead what words Angela would actually have spoken, and then backshift them.

(1) “call”, is in the “simultaneous past actions” category, but if you remember that usually only one of the simultaneous actions, the “background” one, uses the past progressive tense, then you should be able to work out which is the correct form here.

New Member

Based on the sulotion:
1) called – because the new action happened in the middle of another action
2) was calling
3) was waiting
4) was talking
5) was making

For answers (2)-(5) I don’t understand why we use Past Continuous. When we have reported speech is any rule that saids we have to use Past Continuous? Sorry if I’m asking ridiculous questions .

Uncle Jack
Senior Member

Your questions are not ridiculous.

With reported speech, you usually don’t change from simple to progressive or vice versa. I thought it might be easier to imagine the actual conversation, in the present tense:

Angela: I’m calling you on my cell phone from my biology classroom at UCLA
You: Are you waiting for class?
Angela: No, the professor is at the front of the hall lecturing while I am talking to you.​

Okay, it might not have gone quite like this, but you might be able to see that the conversation could not have been:

Angela: I call you on my cell phone from my biology classroom at UCLA
You: Do you wait for class?
Angela: No, the professor is at the front of the hall lecturing while I talk to you.​

Actually, the last sentence is perhaps not as clear as it might be (it is more common for only one simultaneous event to use the progressive form), but “was talking” is undoubtedly correct.

The very last verb, (5) make, can be either, I think, depending on whether you are reporting what you thought at the time (“was making”), or whether you are reflecting on the situation now (“made”), but I think “was making” goes better with “couldn’t” (past tense). With “can’t” (present tense), it would be better to use “made”.

Done my homework

The done my homework construction involves a form of the word be, followed by the participle finished or done (or, for some speakers, started), followed by a noun phrase. (1) and (2) show two examples of this construction:

1) I’m done my homework.

2) I’m finished my homework.

Note that the noun phrase does not have to be my homework. In fact, it can be almost any noun phrase, as shown by the following examples taken from Hinnell (2012:4):

3) a. Martin is done his bass tracks and we are ready to start vocals.

b. By the time I am done dinner, I don’t want my side snack.

c. So many bloggers I read are doing this. One is already done her 50,000 words!

d. This will be particularly important once you’re done the tattoo and need to leave the shop.


Who says this?

The done my homework construction is a widespread characteristic of Canadian English, and it is also found in the United States among speakers in the Philadelphia area, southern New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and the northern part of New England (Yerastov 2008, 2010a, 2010b, 2012, 2016; Hinnell 2012; Fruehwald and Myler 2013, 2015; Zanuttini et al. 2016). It has not been found in the dialects of the United Kingdom or elsewhere outside of North America.

See our interactive maps below to explore some of the raw data in more detail.

Syntactic Properties

The syntax of this construction has recently been studied in some detail by Fruehwald and Myler (2013, 2015). The following description is based on their work.

Degree modification by all

The done my homework construction may seem to resemble a sentence like I have done my homework. (A sentence that, like this one, contains have plus a participle is said to be in the perfect aspect). However, the phrase done my homework is actually more similar to adjective phrases such as ready for school because, like an adjective phrase, these phrases can be modified by the degree word all. (4a) shows a typical example of all modifying an adjective phrase (namely, ready for school), and (4b) shows an analogous example of the done my homework construction with modification by all:

4) a. I’m all ready for school.

b. I’m all done my homework.

By contrast, done my homework may not be modified by all when it is used in a sentence with the perfect aspect. Thus, (5) is not acceptable:

5) *I have all done my homework.

This is evidence that the done my homework construction is not an instance of a verb phrase in the perfect aspect but rather is more like an adjective phrase.

Co-occurrence with perfect aspect

The done my homework construction also differs from verb phrases in the perfect aspect in that done my homework can actually co-occur with the perfect aspect, as in (6):

6) I have been done my homework for a while now.

By contrast, although done my homework can co-occur with the perfect aspect as shown in (6), the perfect aspect cannot co-occur with a second instance of the perfect aspect in the same sentence. Thus, (7) would not be acceptable:

7) *I have had done my homework for a while now.

Fruehwald and Myler (2013, 2015) show several other ways in which the done my homework construction is distinct from the perfect aspect.

No leaving the object behind

At first glance, it may be tempting to think that the done my homework construction involves simply not pronouncing the word with in a sentence like (8):

Fruehwald and Myler (2013, 2015), however, present several differences between the two constructions. One such difference is the ability (shown in (9c)) to move the word done to the beginning of the sentence, similar to the movement of proud and angry in (9a) and (9b):

9) a. Proud though John is of his daughter, it won’t matter.

b. Angry though John is with his daughter, it won’t matter.

c. Done though John is with his computer, it won’t matter.

This kind of movement is not possible with the done my homework construction. For example, although the entire phrase done his homework may be moved as in (10b), (10a) would be judged unacceptable because only done has moved, leaving the object his homework behind:

10) a. *Done though John may be his homework, it won’t matter.

b. * Done his homework though John may be, it won’t matter.

In this respect, it is similar to phrases like worth the money because (11a), like (10a), is unacceptable, whereas (11b), like (10b), is acceptable:

11) a. *Worth though this may be the money, it won’t matter.

b. * Worth the money though this may be, it won’t matter.

Fruehwald and Myler (2013, 2015) also argue that the meaning of the construction is not what we would expect if it involved an unpronounced with.

Allowed verbs

There is variation across dialects in terms of which verbs speakers allow in this construction. According to Yerastov (e.g. 2010a, 2010b), there is a hierarchy along the lines of finished > done > started. In other words, if speakers accept started (as in I’m started my homework), they will accept all three verbs. If speakers accept done, they will also accept finished, but not necessarily started. Finally, some speakers accept only finished. This kind of hierarchy resembles the one found in the needs washed construction with need > want > like (see here for further discussion of the needs washed construction).

Recent Survey Results

The following map shows results from a recent nationwide survey. It represents speakers’ judgments of the sentence I’m done my homework. There is some description of the map on the left, as well as a legend in the upper righthand side.

This next map shows recent results of a survey regarding various iterations of the PAST-PARTICIPLE + YOUR HOMEWORK construction:

Page contributed by Jim Wood on February 28, 2014.

Updates/revisions: August 9, 2015 (Tom McCoy); June 1, 2018 (Katie Martin); July 8, 2020 (Oliver Shoulson)