What Is the Past Progressive (continuous)?
The past continuous in English is a verb tense that is used to talk about continuing actions that took place in the past. There are many situations in which the past continuous is used in a sentence.
When to Use:
1. Interruption in the Past
We use the past continuous to indicate an interruption in the past:
- I was reading a book when he called me.
- When the phone rang, we were having dinner.
- While we were playing tennis, it started to rain.
- What were you doing when the game started?
2. Specific Interruption in the Past
To indicate a specific interruption in the past:
- Last night at 2 AM, I was watching a documentary.
- At noon, we were still driving through the city.
- Yesterday at this same time, I was working on my project.
3. Multiple events in the Past
To show that two or more actions are happening at the same time in the past:
- I was cleaning while she was doing dishes.
- While the professor was lecturing, Tim was sleeping.
- Thomas was not working, and I was not studying.
- They were eating breakfast, discussing future plans, and watching the news.
With repetition and word “always”:
- He was always coming to work on time.
- She was constantly nagging. She annoyed everyone.
- They were not accepted because they were always complaining.
How to Use:
The past continuous is formed using:
was/were + present participle.
The negative – simply by adding ’not’ :
|I was writing||I was not (wasn’t) writing|
|You were sleeping||You were not (weren’t) sleeping|
|He was working||He was not (wasn’t) working|
|She was reading||She was not (wasn’t) reading|
|It was raining||It was not (wasn’t) raining|
|We were shopping||We were not (weren’t) shopping|
|They were watching basketball||They were not (weren’t) watching basketball|
To form ’yes / no’ questions, simply put ’was / were’ in front of the subject:
|’Yes / No’ Question||’WH’ Question|
|Was I sleeping?||Why was I sleeping?|
|Were you working?||Where were you working?|
|Was she cooking?||How was she cooking?|
|Was he living in London at the time?||Where was he living at the time?|
|Was it snowing when you arrived?||Why was it snowing in the summer?|
|Were we watching something?||What were we watching?|
|Were they studying?||Why were they studying?|