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I had been doing homework when Mary called me

hirashin

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Dear native English speakers,
I have a question.
I made this translation problem.
I ( )( )( ) homework when Mary called me.
(meaning: メアリーが電話をかけてきたとき、私は宿題をしていました)
My answer was
(a) I was doing my homework when Mary called me. 

But my colleague says (b) may also be fine.
(b) I had been doing homework when Mary called me.
What do you think?

Hirashin
 

Julie.chan

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They're both valid. Slightly different meanings, though. I'm not sure how to explain it.
 

tasqunevie

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Dear native English speakers,
I have a question.
I made this translation problem.
I ( )( )( ) homework when Mary called me.
(meaning: メアリーが電話をかけてきたとき、私は宿題をしていました)
My answer was
(a) I was doing my homework when Mary called me. 

But my colleague says (b) may also be fine.
(b) I had been doing homework when Mary called me.
What do you think?

Hirashin
The difference here is that 'had been' usually indicates that the action is still continuous, and 'was' suggests a one-time event that has ceased (here, by the interruption of being called by Mary).

You're asking some pretty complex English here! To be honest, most native English speakers wouldn't have any idea or pay any mind to this kind of difference. It's extremely subtle and rarely detectable.
 

mdchachi

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As the others said they are both correct; the difference is subtle and your typical native speaker probably can't explain it. (Even a typical American school teacher I bet).
 

hirashin

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Interesting. Thank you all for the help, Julimaruchan, tasqunevie, and mdchachi.

I've seen "doing my homework" more often than "doing homework". Is "my" optional?
Can you say "I'm doing homework" instead of "I'm doing my homework"?
 

Julie.chan

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Yeah, you can use that too. It's an identical meaning since you wouldn't be doing other people's homework.
 
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