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
- “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 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
- 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.