Another important tense in the English language is the Past Continuous Tense. It is highly used to say what we were in the middle of doing at a particular moment in the past. Here, we will look at the structure along with the use of past continuous tense which will be followed by a short exercise. Remember that continuous tenses are also called progressive tenses. Hence, the past continuous tense is sometimes also called the past progressive tense.

Let us now look at the making of the past continuous tense:

subject+Auxiliary ‘be’+Main verb
Conjugated in past simple
was, werePresent participle
  • Auxiliary verb ‘be’ is conjugated in the Past Simple: was, were
  • Main verb is invariable in present participle form: -ing
  • In case of negative sentences, ‘not’ is put in between the auxiliary verb along with the main verb.
  • In case of question sentences, subject and auxiliary verbs are exchanged.

Let us have a look at some examples:

subjectAuxiliary verbMain verb
He, she, itwasnotPlaying nicely.
?WeretheyFooling others?

The Past Continuous tense is used to express action at a particular moment in the past. Usually, the action starts before that moment but it has not finished at that moment. 

Let us make it more clear with some examples:

  • I was watching a movie at 11pm last night.
  • We were not listening to her since a long time.
  • I went to the office early because it was raining.
  • She was watching TV when I messaged her.
  • What were you doing when I left?

Remember that some of the verbs cannot be used in the continuous/progressive tenses. Very often, the Past Continuous Tenses are used to ‘set the scene’ in the story. We also use it to describe the background situation at the moment at the beginning of the actions. Usually, the story begins with the past continuous and then moves forward into the past simple tense.

Very often, we use the past continuous tense along with the past simple tense. Past continuous tense is used to express a long action, whereas the past simple tense is used to express short action which takes place in the middle of the long action. Both the ideas can be joined with ‘when’ or ‘while’.

For example,

  • We were watching a movie when you arrived.

Usually, the long and short actions are relative.

  • Watching the movie took a few hours.

Arriving took a few minutes.


Change the given sentences into Past Continuous Tense

  1. I am watching TV.
  2. We are playing football.
  3. She was about to leave.
  4. He is not concentrating.
  5. We are doing the work.

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