Download PDF

Past Continuous

When do we use the Past Continuous?

The Past Continuous is used when we talk about something which was happening at a special time in the past. It is also called the Past Progressive.

1. actions were in progress around a time in the past

Susan was listening to the radio yesterday evening.

I was watching television at 8 o’clock last night.

2. two actions were happening at the same time but the actions are not connected we want to show they took place at the same time and lasted for a while. 

Susan was watching television while Peter was playing a computer game.

Mary was cooking and James was reading the paper.

3. together with the Past Simple

While we were watching television, the telephone rang.

While I was having a bath, and my dad walked in.

Note:

  • Past Continuous → were watching
  • Past Simple → the telephone rang.

The action in Past Simple interrupted the action in Past Continuous.

4. repeated actions irritating the speaker (with alwaysconstantlyforever)

Susan was always borrowing money from people. (I don’t like that.)

Past Simple → Susan always borrowed money. (Here I don’t give a comment.)

5. Signal words

while
when

6. Form

to be (was, were) + infinitive + ing

7. Examples

7.1. Affirmative sentences in the Past Continuous

Long formsContracted forms
was reading a book.not possible
You were reading a book.
He was reading a book.

7.2. Negative sentences in the Past Continuous

Long formsContracted forms
was not reading a book..wasn’t reading a book.
You were not reading a book..You weren’t reading a book.
He was not reading a book.He wasn’t reading a book.

7.3. Questions in the Past Continuous

Long formsContracted forms
Was I reading a book.?not possible
Were you reading a book.?
Was he reading a book.?