Past continuous

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.

Form:

was/were + verb+ing

Examples:

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

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