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Simple Past and Past Continuous

“I was studying when you called me.”

When to use the Past Continuous

Use the past continuous to talk about things that were in progress in the past.

Past Continuous Positive

To form the past continuous positive, use subject + (to be) + verb + -ing

I

He

She

It

was studying
You

We

They

were studying

 

Examples:

  • “What were you doing when I called you?”
    “I was studying.”
  • She was playing guitar at the party.
  • At 5:30 last night, we were driving home.
  • They saw a starfish while they were walking on the beach.

Past Continuous Negative

To form the past continuous negative, use subject + (to be) + not + verb + -ing

I

He

She

It

was not
(wasn’t)
studying
You

We

They

were not
(weren’t)
studying

 

Examples:

  • I wasn’t listening when the teacher gave the instructions.
  • She wasn’t wearing jeans. She was wearing a dress.
  • We weren’t driving very fast because the road was wet.
  • They weren’t sleeping at 10 PM last night; they were watching a movie.

Past Continuous Questions

To form past continuous questions, use (to be) + subject + verb + -ing

Was I

he

she

it

sleeping?
Were you

we

they

sleeping?

 

Examples:

  • Were you sleeping when I called you?
  • What was she thinking about last night? She looked worried.
  • Was it raining when you left the bar?
  • What music were they listening to?

You can put a question word at the beginning:

  • Who were you talking to on the phone last night?
    I was talking to my cousin.
  • What was John doing at the library?
    He was looking for a book.
  • Why were they drinking champagne yesterday?
    Because it was their anniversary.

Be careful! Some verbs are never used in the continuous form:
like, want, need, believe.

I was needing to find a job.
I needed to find a job.

She was believing that he loved her.
She believed that he loved her.

Simple Past and Past Continuous

The past continuous is often used together with the simple past to show that one thing happened while another thing was in progress:

  • I was talking on the phone when my sister arrived.
  • He was drinking beer when he suddenly felt sick.
  • She took a photo as we were getting out of the bus.
  • We were waiting for the bus when we saw a car accident.
Simple Past and Past Continuous

Difference between the simple past and past continuous



Simple Past and Past Continuous Exercises

Choose the correct verb tense: Simple past or past continuous. Good luck!
Start

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