Past continuous (progressive) tense
We use past continuous tense to say that something was going on at a specific time in the past and it is over now, short term situations only.
was/were + verb+ing
I was playing a computer game all day yesterday.
What were you doing last night?
You were talking on the phone when I tried to call you.
He was learning to drive on Monday morning when I saw him.
She was sitting her maths exam on Friday afternoon.
Was she working when you came to see her?
It was raining when I got up this morning.
We were driving to Wales when our car broke down.
They were getting ready for the party when I called.
Past simple vs Past continuous
We use combination of these two tenses when we want to descrive to events happening at the same time. We use past simple for a one-off action (e.g. I called) and past continuous tense for an ongoing activity (e.g. They were getting ready).
Some more examples:
I was having a bath when I heard a loud bang.
You were cooking when I came home.
She met her last husband when she was working as an estate agent.
Verbs NOT used in continuous tenses:
- verbs of senses: feel, hear, see, smell, sound, taste
- verbs of feelings: love, hate, like, want, fear, respect, admire, adore, dislike, wish, prefer, impress, concern
- verbs of mental activity: agree, believe, expect, know, mean, remember, trust, understand, recognise, realise, suppose, imagine, doubt
- verbs of possession: belong, own, owe, possess
- other verbs: astonish, appear, deny, seem, surprise, consist, include, fit, involve