Pick the better option: "We just waited in line eight hours to get a good seat in the theatre." or "We wait in line eight hours to get a good seat in the theatre."?

The preceding two lines are:

"Star Wars fans take the movies very seriously. The movie has been sold out for a week."

1 Answer

...just waited...


If I'm understanding the question correctly, we are to choose between "We wait in line..." and "We just waited in line...".

Let's look at the set up the sentence in question. The first sentence, the one about people taking Star Wars seriously, doesn't tell us anything so let's move on to the second sentence.

The second sentence tells us the movie has been sold out for a week.

And now we move to the third sentence where we are supposed to make a verb choice. The action that we are talking about is the waiting in line to get a good seat. So which verb should we choose?

"We just waited in line..." tells us that the narrator is now in his seat after having to stand in line to get a good one. This is a valid choice.

"We wait in line to get a good seat in the theatre." This sentence, on its own, doesn't really work. It sets the narrator in the line hoping for a good seat. It could work if the narrator was narrating an experience in the line, for instance:

"We wait in line to get a good seat in the theatre but then, what do you know, the power went out and they cancel the showing." - something of this sort to relate an experience in the line.

I'd choose "just waited".

Now - these options cover the two that I think were the options given. So let's address a question that came from a comment and look at "We have just waited in line to get a good seat in the theatre". Let's talk about this option.

The "just waited" option is in simple past tense. The "have just waited" option is the present perfect tense. Both get the idea across that the waiting in line occurred in the past. However, what the simple past brings in terms of tone is "the action of waiting is done and we can move on to watching the movie". The present perfect brings the tone of results - you expect to hear what has just come of the waiting.

So my vote is the simple past tense - "We just waited...". Had the sentence included a result, such as "...and we nabbed the best seats in the house!" then I think the present perfect tense would be appropriate.

It took me a while to work this one out. This website deals directly with the decision to choose between the two tenses: