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I have the following two spanish sentences:

Me estaba bañando cuando sonó el teléfono.

Mientras me bañaba, sonó el teléfono.

We use imperfect tense describing an action (Me estaba bañando, me bañaba) when something else happened in Preterite tense (sonó el teléfono).

Can we also combine and write:

Mientras me estaba bañando, sonó el teléfono.

When do we use Me estaba bañando and when me bañaba? For me both seems equal phrases, meaning the action of washing myself (in the imperfect tense).

  • I saw the above question and the example in the answer Mientras me estaba duchando mi hermanito subió la temperatura. My question here if the Me estaba bañando has the same meaning with me bañaba and when we use each one. – ggia Dec 17 '14 at 13:10
  • By using estaba you are simply indicating that the action of showering was taking place, rather than just passively saying me duchaba. Without estaba it gives off the sense of an everyday action. – dockeryZ Dec 17 '14 at 13:22
  • Yo como pizza VS Yo estoy comiendo pizza – dockeryZ Dec 17 '14 at 13:23
  • I actually think this other question could help. Check that post, please, and let us know. – Diego Dec 17 '14 at 13:47
  • ¡Muchas gracias! – ggia Dec 17 '14 at 13:52
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In the example you give us, virtually no difference between "bañaba" and "estaba bañando". You can use them both in the same sense.

However, if you want more accuracy or understand the difference, consider the following:

Pretérito imperfecto (imperfect tense):

indicates that an action happened several times in the past, regardless of their completion:

Mientras me bañaba sonó el teléfono. [I had not finished my bath when the phone rang]

Mi abuela me bañaba en un balde. [She bathed me more than once]

Estar + gerundio (progressive tenses): indicates that an action takes place over a period

Me estaba bañando cuando sonó el teléfono. [The call occurs during the course of the bath]

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  • Tu definición de pretérito imperfecto no concuerda con la de la RAE: «Prétérito imperfecto: 1. m. Gram. Tiempo que indica una acción o un estado de cosas simultáneos a un instante anterior al momento en que se habla.» (lema.rae.es/drae/srv/search?id=qMhy4gwIzDXX2O6nrTx3) Pretérito imperfecto simplemente quiere decir que estamos hablando de algo que pasó mientras otra cosa estaba pasando [ésta, en imperfecto]. Fácilmente sustituible por estaba+gerundio, se suele corresponder con el Past continuous. – Paloma Dec 17 '14 at 20:11
  • Según entiendo de tu cita, el pretérito imperfecto indica que la acción es simultánea a un instante anterior a ahora, no a otra acción anterior. "Bailaba" significa que el baile ocurrió antes de ahora, no que el baile era simultáneo a alguna otra cosa que ocurría antes de ahora. (Mira que espeso el tema...) – Rodrigo Dec 17 '14 at 23:31
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Estaba duchándome

Me estaba duchando

The above two sentences are exactly the same. Each one expresses an ongoing action; in your case, in the past.

Me duchaba

This sentence however, is very indicative. I showered. But did I shower everyday? When was I showering? How long was I showering? Did I shower everyday? Using the indicative leaves the sentence open to interpretation.

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In English, it is known as the "present progressive," or "ing" tense.

The translation would be "I was bathING."

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