The Past Continuous Tense

We generally use the past continuous to describe actions that began in the past and often continued for a short period of time after the action started. The past continuous tense is formed by combining the past tense of to be (i.e., was/were) with the verb's present participle (-ing word).

The Past Continuous Tense is used in the following cases:


Interrupted past actions

For example: While I was cooking dinner, my son came home.

During the meeting, my colleague fainted.

While I was speaking on the phone, the dog barked loudly.


Gradual development in the past

For example: Things were getting better.

It was getting colder and colder.

She was making progress.

Their hopes were fading.


Actions that began before a specific time but probably continued

For example: He was working at ten.

At eight o'clock he was having breakfast.

She was doing her hair when I arrived.


Descriptions

For example: When I woke up, the sun was shining, and the birds were singing.

In the above example note the combination of description (past continuous)

with narrative (past simple).

It was raining outside.


When we use past continuous in its negative form, we start with the subject, followed by was not or were not and the verb with -ing. We use past continuous to express an action that didn't take place when another one occurred.

For example: I was not driving when the car hit me.

He was not listening to me while I was talking to him.



Let's practice!

Complete the following sentences using the correct form of the verb in brackets.


  1. The girl was _______ (play) in the rain.

  2. The children were ______ (sing) when I walked into the room.

  3. He was ______ (laugh) at her.

  4. He _________ (not listen) to me.

  5. You _______ (not do) your homework when I checked.

  6. They were ______ (wait) for the bus when the accident happened.

  7. _____ she ______ (swim) when you arrived?

  8. Where were the children ______ (hide)?

  9. What was your cat ____ (eat)?

  10. Where _____(be) they _____ (go)?

  11. Where _____ (be) you living?

  12. Was it _____ (rain) earlier?

  13. She was _____ (study).

  14. They _____ (be) ______ (work) this morning.

  15. What were you _____ (look) at?

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