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What did you do VS What were you doing

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hirashin

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Dear native English speakers
I believe both (a) and (b) would be used but they have a different meaning from each other.
How would either be used?

(a) What did you do here last night?
(b) What were you doing here last night?

Thanks in advance.

Hirashin
 

mdchachi

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Dear native English speakers
I believe both (a) and (b) would be used but they have a different meaning from each other.
How would either be used?

(a) What did you do here last night?
(b) What were you doing here last night?
They are both used. Both can have the meaning of
昨日の夜ここで何をしていたの?
But (b) can also mean
何で昨日の夜ここにいたの?
 

hirashin

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Thank you for the help, mdchachi.
They are both used. Both can have the meaning of
昨日の夜ここで何をしていたの?
But (b) can also mean
何で昨日の夜ここにいたの?

Can (b) have the same meaning as (c)?
(c) Why were you here last night?
 
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Yeah, B and C can be the same. It's worth noting that phrasing a question with "what were you doing" is more likely to be a sort of accusative question, i.e. implying that the person you're talking to is guilty of wrongdoing. Not always, and it largely depends on tone, but C is definitely the more conservative, safer question for that meaning, while for the other meaning A is safer, especially in writing.
 

hirashin

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Is "I was working on my assignment I have to submit today" possible to answer question (a), (b) or (c)? Or, is it necessary to say "I worked on my assignment I have to submit today" to answer (a)?
 
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Both are fine.

Strictly speaking, you should use "I worked" for A, but anyone who complains about this would just be seen as an annoying nitpicker. Kind of like those people who complain about using the passive tense, or who try to insist that their preference for using or not using a comma after the "and" at the end of a list is the only right way to do it.
 
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