The past continuous is a tense that is used to express an ongoing action in the past that was happening at a specific moment of interruption, or that two ongoing actions in the past were happening at the same time.
Forming Past Continuous sentences
The past continuous is formed using was/were + present participle.
|I was working.||I was not working.||Was I working?||Was I not working?|
|You were working.||You were not working.||Were you working?||Were you not working?|
|He was working.||He was not working.||Was she working?||Was he not working?|
|She was working.||She was not working.||Was he working?||Was she not working?|
|It was working.||It was not working.||Was it working?||Was it not working?|
|We were working.||We were not working.||Were we working?||Were we not working?|
|They were working.||They were not working.||Were they working?||Were they not working?|
Contraction with Past Continuous
When we use the Past Continuous tense in speaking or informal writing, we often contract the words like this:
|I wasn’t working.||Wasn’t I working?|
|You weren’t working.||Weren’t you working?|
|He wasn’t working.||Wasn’t he working?|
|She wasn’t working.||Wasn’t she working?|
|It wasn’t working.||Wasn’t it working?|
|We weren’t working.||Weren’t we working?|
|They weren’t working.||Weren’t they working?|
Using Past Continuous
Use 1 Interrupted action in the past
We often use Past Continuous to describe a longer action in the past that was interrupted by another action.
- I was reading a book when Ian called.
- When the phone rang, he was getting dressed.
- What were you doing when he came home?
- I was watching Tv, so I didn’t hear anything.
- They were watching TV when the bell rang.
- I was washing my car when the accident happened!
Use 2 Specific time as an interruption
We can use Past Continuous to talk about actions in the past that were interrupted at specific time.
- Last night at 11PM, he was sleeping and I was reading a book next to him.
- Yesterday at this time, I was flying home from my holiday in Thailand.
Use 3 Parallel Actions
We often use Past Continuous to describe event or actions that were both happening at the same time in the past.
- On our way home, I was driving while he was sleeping on the passenger seat.
- Were you listening while he was talking?
- What were you doing while I was working?
Use 4 Do describe atmosphere
We often use Past Continuous to describe atmosphere at a particular time in the past.
- When I was walking home from work, it was raining and people were walking fast. Everybody was getting wet.
Use 5 Irritation with “Always” and “Constantly”
We often use the past continuous with “always” and “constantly” to talk about something irritating or shocking that repeatedly happened in the past.
- He was always driving so fast.
- He was constantly talking. He annoyed everyone.
- I didn’t like her because she was always complaining.