Past Continuous tense -6


Past Continuous tense -6

The Past Continuous tense is an important tense in English. We use it to say what we were in the middle of doing at a particular moment in the past

In this lesson we look at the structure and the use of the Past Continuous tense, followed by a quiz to check your understanding .Note that continuous tenses are also called progressive tenses. So the Past Continuous tense is sometimes called the Past Progressive tense

?How do we make the Past Continuous tense

The structure of the past continuous tense is

subject+auxiliary be+main verb
conjugated in Past Simple 
was, werepresent participle

The auxiliary verb (be) is conjugated in the Past Simple: was, were

The main verb is invariable in present participle form: -ing

For negative sentences we insert not between the auxiliary verb and the main verb

For question sentences, we exchange the subject and the auxiliary verb

Look at these example sentences with the Past Continuous tense

 subjectauxiliary verb main verb 
+Iwas watchingTV
+Youwere workinghard
He, she, itwasnothelpingMary
?Wereyou beingsilly
?Werethey playingfootball

The spelling rules for adding -ing to make the Past Continuous tense are the same as for the Present Continuous tense

?How do we use the Past Continuous tense

The Past Continuous tense expresses action at a particular moment in the past. The action started before that moment but has not finished at that moment. For example, yesterday I watched a film on TV. The film started at 7pm and finished at 9pm

At 8pm yesterday, I was watching TV
At 8pm, I was in the middle of watching TV  

When we use the Past Continuous tense, our listener usually knows or understands what time we are talking about. Look at these examples

was working at 10pm last night

They were not playing football at 9am this morning

?What were you doing at 10pm last night

?What were you doing when he arrived

She was cooking when I telephoned her

We were having dinner when it started to rain

Ram went home early because it was snowing

Past Continuous + Past Simple

We often use the Past Continuous tense with the Past Simple tense. We use the Past Continuous to express a long action. And we use the Past Simple to express a short action that happens in the middle of the long action. We can join the two ideas with when or while

In the following example, we have two actions

long action (watching TV), expressed with Past Continuous

short action (telephoned), expressed with Past Simple

long action
I was watching TV from 7pm to 9pm
short action
You phoned at 8pm

We can join these two actions with when

I was watching TV when you telephoned

Notice that “when you telephoned” is also a way of defining the time (8pm)

We use

when + short action (Past Simple)

while + long action (Past Continuous)

There are four basic combinations

 I was walking past the carwhenit exploded
Whenthe car exploded I was walking past it
 The car explodedwhileI was walking past it
WhileI was walking past the car it exploded

Notice that the long action and short action are relative

“Watching TV” took two hours. “Telephoned” took a few seconds

“Walking past the car” took a few seconds. “Exploded” took milliseconds

Using The Past Continuous Tense in English

The past continuous is one of main tenses used to describe situations in the past in English. When and how do you use it? Read on to find out

The Past Continuous

Knowing how to use the past continuous allows you to enrich your descriptions of the past, especially when you’re telling a story and want to go into detail about what happened

How to form the past continuous

We form the past continuous by using the simple past form of the verb ‘to be’ – was/were – and the main verb in the -ing form. For example

“You were reading a book

To make questions we invert the auxiliary verb was/were and the subject

?Were you reading a book

And to make negative forms we add ‘not

?“You weren’t reading a book

Here is a table with a complete set of examples

Past Continuous
Past Continuous

The short answer form is Yes, I was./No, I wasn’t

So when do we use the past continuous? There are two main uses of this past tense

1) Describing an action at a particular time in the past

At 4 p.m. I was reading a book

This means that the action of reading started before 4 p.m. and continued at that time. Here are some other examples

?What were you doing at 12:30

We were having lunch at 12:30

Jana was still sitting in the classroom at 5 p.m.

The children were having tea at 4:30 p.m

The traffic wasn’t moving at all at 8 a.m

2) Comparing two finished actions in the past

When I arrived, the children were waiting for me

This means that the children started to wait and the action continued when I arrived. Here are some other examples

I was falling asleep when I heard a noise downstairs

They were just going onto the motorway when they got a flat tire

?Was it raining when you went out

Mrs Evans was making a phone call when we went into her office

?Past continuous or past simple

If you’re describing a sequence of actions that happened in chronological order, use the simple past. For example

got uphad a shower then went downstairs for breakfast

If you want to give some details to help the listener picture a situation more clearly, use the past continuous. For example

When I went into the kitchen, my brother was making some bacon and eggs

The past continuous is a very useful tense and, as you can see, not difficult to create and introduce to your speech. Have a go at the quiz at the top of this post to practice now

The best way to learn this tense along with other English forms is to do a structured course. At Wall Street English you can learn how to use all the English tenses in a fun and practical way, through listening and speaking

WHILE + past continuous and WHEN + the past simple

I want to ask you about Past Continuous and Past Simple. I’ve watched a video where a presenter said, “If you say past simple USUALLY we say WHEN and the past simple if you say past continuous we usually use WHILE with the past continuous. Here are some examples “I saw her while (so WHILE we use past continuous) she was walking home.” She was walking home WHEN I saw her.” So, you see in the examples WHILE + past continuous and WHEN + the past simple”

After watching this video I opened an English textbook and it was written: 1) Neil arrived late WHEN his boss was making a speech. 2) We were having a party WHEN I took this photo. 3) Tom saw the robbers WHEN they were leaving the bank. Personally, I haven’t heard about the WHILE+past continuous and WHEN+PAst Simple rule before. And if I heard that wouldn’t help in the sentences above… Is there really a rule like that?”if you say past continuous we usually use WHILE with the past continuous” could you give an example when after while I should use past simple

Past Continuous

The past continuous (also called past progressive) is a verb tense which is used to show that an ongoing past action was happening at a specific moment of interruption, or that two ongoing actions were happening at the same time. Read on for detailed descriptions, examples, and past continuous exercises

Past Continuous Forms

The past continuous is formed using was/were + present participle. Questions are indicated by inverting the subject and was/were. Negatives are made with not

Statement: You were studying when she called

?Question: Were you studying when she called

Negative: You were not studying when she called

was singingwas not singing?Was I singing
You were singingYou were not singing?Were you singing
We were singingWe were not singing?Were we singing
They were singingThey were not singing?Were they singing
He was singingHe was not singing?Was he singing
She was singingShe was not singing?Was she singing
It was singingIt was not singing?Was it singing

USE 1 Interrupted Action in the Past

Use the past continuous to indicate that a longer action in the past was interrupted. The interruption is usually a shorter action in the simple past. Remember this can be a real interruption or just an interruption in time


was watching TV when she called

?When the phone rang, she was writing a letter

?While we were having the picnic, it started to rain

?What were you doing when the earthquake started

was listening to my iPod, so I didn’t hear the fire alarm

You were not listening to me when I told you to turn the oven off

?While John was sleeping last night, someone stole his car

Sammy was waiting for us when we got off the plane

?While I was writing the email, the computer suddenly went off

A: What were you doing when you broke your leg
B: I was snowboarding

USE 2 Specific Time as an Interruption

past continuous specific time

In USE 1, described above, the past continuous is interrupted by a shorter action in the simple past. However, you can also use a specific time as an interruption


Last night at 6 PM, I was eating dinner

At midnight, we were still driving through the desert

Yesterday at this time, I was sitting at my desk at work


In the simple past, a specific time is used to show when an action began or finished. In the past continuous, a specific time only interrupts the action


Last night at 6 PM, I ate dinner
I started eating at 6 PM

Last night at 6 PM, I was eating dinner
I started earlier; and at 6 PM, I was in the process of eating dinner

USE 3 Parallel Actions

When you use the past continuous with two actions in the same sentence, it expresses the idea that both actions were happening at the same time. The actions are parallel


was studying while he was making dinner

While Ellen was reading, Tim was watching television

?Were you listening while he was talking

wasn’t paying attention while I was writing the letter, so I made several mistakes

?What were you doing while you were waiting

Thomas wasn’t working, and I wasn’t working either

They were eating dinner, discussing their plans, and having a good time

USE 4 Atmosphere

In English, we often use a series of parallel actions to describe the atmosphere at a particular time in the past


When I walked into the office, several people were busily typing, some were talking on the phones, the boss was yelling directions, and customers were waiting to be helped. One customer was yelling at a secretary and waving his hands. Others were complaining to each other about the bad service

USE 5 Repetition and Irritation with Always

past continuous repetition always

The past continuous with words such as always or constantly expresses the idea that something irritating or shocking often happened in the past. The concept is very similar to the expression used to but with negative emotion. Remember to put the words always or constantly between be and verb+ing


She was always coming to class late

He was constantly talking. He annoyed everyone

I didn’t like them because they were always complaining

Past Continuous Tips

While vs. When

Clauses are groups of words which have meaning, but are often not complete sentences. Some clauses begin with the word when such as “when she called” or “when it bit me.” Other clauses begin with while such as “while she was sleeping” and “while he was surfing.” When you talk about things in the past, when is most often followed by the verb tense simple past, whereas while is usually followed by past continuous. While expresses the idea of “during that time.” Study the examples below. They have similar meanings, but they emphasize different parts of the sentence


I was studying when she called

While I was studying, she called

REMEMBER Non-Continuous Verbs / Mixed Verbs

It is important to remember that Non-continuous verbs cannot be used in any continuous tenses. Also, certain non-continuous meanings for mixed verbs cannot be used in continuous tenses. Instead of using past continuous with these verbs, you must use simple past


Jane was being at my house when you arrived. Not Correct

Jane was at my house when you arrived. Correct


The examples below show the placement for grammar adverbs such as alwaysonlynevereverstilljust, etc


You were just studying when she called

?Were you just studying when she called



The salesman was helping the customer when the thief came into the store. Active

The customer was being helped by the salesman when the thief came into the store. Passive

Past Continuous Quiz

.. My brother and sister _____ playing tennis at 11am yesterday. are

.. _____ you still working at 7pm last night? Were

.. At 8.30am today I _____ driving to work. was

.. We _____ sleeping when the police came. was

.. Why _____ he having lunch at 4pm? was

.. Was he not _____ his homework? doing

.. Snow _____ lightly. Suddenly a reindeer appeared. fell
 was falling
 is falling

.. Somebody threw a shoe at him _____ he was speaking. after

.. They ________ TV when I arrived. were watching
 were watched

. I was reading a detective story _____ I heard a noise. during

الماضي المستمر Past Continuous Tense

الماضي المستمر Past Continuous هو الزمن الذي يشير إلى فعل أو حدث مستمر في زمن الماضي. أي أن هذا الحدث مازال في الاستمرار في الماضي بحيث بدأ في وقت معين في الماضي ومازال مستمرا حتى الوقت الحاضر.

تعلم المفردات بسهولة بالطريقة الخاصة التي يستخدمها Wordly

غالبًا ما يُسْتَخْدَم في القصص المكتوبة في زمن الماضي لوصف مسار الأحداث ومجرياتها، كما لوصف حَدَث غير مُكتَمِل قَطَعَه حدث أو آخر.

كيف تتم صياغة الجملة في الزمن الماضي المستمر

يتكون الفعل في زمن الماضي المستمر من جزأين هما: صيغة الماضي من الفعل (was/were) “to be” ومصدر الفعل مضافًا إليه -ing.

يأتي الماضي المستمر بشكل محقق، منفي أو كسؤال كما يلي:

ولنأخذ فعل يقرأ to read

I was readingI was not reading?Was I reading
He was readingHe wasn’t reading?Was he reading
We were readingWe weren’t reading?Were we reading

اليك المزيد من التفاصيل:

أولاً: الماضي المستمر المثبت او المحقق

مصدر الفعل + ingWas/wereالفاعل

ثانياً: الماضي المستمر المنفي

هنا يضاف النفي not بعد فعل كان was/were

مصدر الفعل + ingWas/wereالفاعل
readingwas notHe
studyingwas notI
playingwere notWe
sleepingwere notThey

ثالثاً: الاستفهام في الزمن الماضي المستمر

ونصيغ الجملة هنا بابتداء الجملة ب was/were ثم نلحقها بالفاعل ثم الفعل مضافاً اليه ing

مصدر الفعل + ingالفاعلWas/were

الظروف الزمنية الدالة على الماضي المستمر

At the timeفي ذاك الوقت
In those daysفي تلك الأيام
All morningكل الصباح
All eveningكل المساء
All nightطوال الليل
All dayطوال اليوم
Yesterday eveningالبارحة مساءً
Last nightليلة البارحة
At that momentفي تلك اللحظة
All-day yesterdayطوال يوم البارحة

اليك بعض الأمثلة عن استخدامات هذه الظروف في تركيب وصياغة الجمل:

I was working in the office all-dayكنت أعمل في المكتب طوال اليوم
She was reading all eveningكانت تقرأ طوال المساء
He was studying last nightكان يدرس ليلة البارحة
They were leaving when we calledكانوا يغادرون حين اتصلنا
You were sleeping when I cameكنت نائماً حين أتيت
We were waiting all day yesterdayكنا ننتظر طوال يوم البارحة

الفرق بين الماضي البسيط والمستمر

نستخدم الماضي البسيط من أجل التكلم عن الأحداث التي انتهت في الماضي.

أما الماضي المستمر، يستخدم من أجل التكلم عن الأحداث التي استمرت لمدة معينة من الوقت في الماضي.

قارن بين هاتين الجملتين:

Past simple: I played basketball yesterday

Past continuous: I was playing basketball yesterday at 5 p.m

الجملة الأولى تخبرنا أن المتكلم قد لعب كرة السلة البارحة وهو حدث منتهي.

أما الجملة الثانية تخبرنا أن المتكلم كان يلعب كرة السلة قبل الساعة الخامسة مساء واستمر في اللعب بعدها.

بعض الأفعال التي لا يمكن استخدامها في الماضي المستمر

هناك بعض الأفعال في اللغة الإنجليزية التي تسمى stative verbs لا تستخدم عادة مع الأزمنة المستمرة من بينها زمن الماضي المستمر لأنها تدل على حالة الفعل وليس الفعل نفسه.

في المقابل يمكنك استعمال زمن الماضي البسيط.

فيما يلي بعض من أشهر هذه الأفعال:

feelingsالمشاعرsensationsالحواسcommunicationالتواصلthinkingالتفكيرothersحالات مختلفة
likeيعجبfeelيشعرdisagreeلا يوافقimagineيتخيلbelongينتمي
fearيخافsoundتأتي بمعنى يبدوsurpriseيفاجئrememberيتذكرownيملك
needيحتاجtasteيتذوق  understandيفهمoweيدين


I was loving herI loved her
He was needing helpHe needed help
I wasn’t believing youI didn’t believe you
She was wanting a coffeeShe wanted a coffee
Was she agreeing with youDid she agree with you