Past Continuous Tense Form And Uses

Form

Affirmative

I was writing.
She was writing.
You were writing.

Negative

I was not writing.
She was not writing.
You were not writing.

Question

Was I writing?
Was she writing?
Were you writing?

Uses of past continuous tense

To talk about past events in progress

The past continuous/progressive is used to talk about events that were in progress around a particular past time.

  • ‘What were you doing yesterday evening?’
  • ‘I was watching TV.’
  • At 7 am this morning, I was doing my homework.

The past continuous is also used to stress that an activity was in progress at every moment during a period of time.

  • was resting all day yesterday.

Past continuous and simple past

We often use the past continuous together with a simple past tense. The past progressive refers to a longer background action or situation; the simple past refers to a shorter action or event that happened in the middle of the longer action.

  • was having a bath when the telephone rang.
  • As I was driving down the street, I saw Peter.
  • They were sleeping when the thieves broke in.

Past progressive and simple past: differences

Duration

The past progressive is used to talk about temporary actions or situations. For longer, more permanent situations we use the simple past.

  • It happened while I was living in Mumbai last year.
  • lived in Chennai for ten years while I was a child.
Repeated actions

We do not normally use the past progressive to talk about repeated or habitual past actions. The simple past is used with this meaning.

  • phoned him four times. (NOT I was phoning four times.)
  • rang the bell seven times. (NOT I was ringing the bell seven times.)

However, the past progressive can be used with always, continually and similar words to talk about things that happened repeatedly and unexpectedly.

  • He was always bringing us nice gifts.
  • I didn’t like him – he was continually making troubles.
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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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