In search of the truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice of the matter, I investigated deeper into why we should not use variants of the verb ‘to be’ (am, is, are, was, were, be, and been), and looked at what we should use instead.
Beginning with the question: “How do you translate: ‘there was thought …’ into something not using ‘was’ and retaining the past continuous tense?”
- Identify forms of ‘to be’ verbs in your writing (e.g. is, am, was, were, being and been).
e.g. #1 – There was thought of asking Mary for a date.
e.g. #2 – There was thought about the ethics of head transplants.
- Look for the ‘doer’ in your sentences, i.e. who is performing the action?
e.g. #1 – There was thought from Trevor of asking Mary for a date.
e.g. #2 – There was thought from the philosopher about the ethics of head transplants.
- Make the ‘doer’ the subject of your sentence.
e.g. #1 – Trevor was thinking about asking Mary for a date.
e.g. #2 – The philosopher was thinking deeply about the ethics of head transplants.
- Substitute more expressive words for the “to be” verbs to enliven the action performed by the ‘doer.’
e.g. #1 – Trevor faced his shyness and decided to ask Mary for a date … tomorrow.
e.g. #2 – The philosopher gathered his thoughts on the ethics of head transplants and … (made something happen).
Granted that these examples depart a little from ‘past continuous tense’, but in their defence – events that happened continually in the past excite no-one, and these sentences really crackle into life (for the reader) as a result of the elimination of the ‘to do’ verb.