Home Grammar Beginner Past continuous

Past continuous

Introduction

The past continuous is used to describe a continuous action in the past (the action starts and finishes in the past).

The action may be interrupted by a shorter action (past simple) or by a specific time, for example:

We can also describe two continuous actions happening at the same time, for example:

Part 1 - Past continuous positive

We make the past continuous with
the past form of the verb "to be" ("was", "were")
+ the "ing’" form of the main verb (present participle)


For example:

Practice

Complete the sentences with the correct past continuous positive form of the verb in brackets.

  • At 4am this morning, I . (sleep)
     
  • She when the alarm started. (dream)
     
  • They to London when the accident happened. (travel)
     
  • We a film while they were making dinner. (watch)
     

Part 2 - Past continuous negative

To make a negative sentence we use "wasn't" ("was not") / "weren't" ("were not").

For example:

Practice

Complete the sentences with the correct past continuous negative form of the verb in brackets.

  • We rice for the curry. (boil)
     
  • He the house alone. (build)
     
  • I the accident very well. (describe)
     
  • The clothes very quickly. (dry)
     

Part 3 - Past continuous questions

To make questions we put "was" / "were" before the subject


For example:

Short answers
Yes, I
he / she / it
was.
No, I
he / she / it
wasn't.
Yes, you
we
they
were.
No, you
we
they
weren't.

Practice

Complete the sentences with the correct past continuous question form of the verb in brackets.

  • you when I called? (bake)
     
  • the pasta long enough? (boil)
     
  • he you? (annoy)
     
  • they the highest mountain? (climb)
     

Further practice

Choose the correct answer to complete the sentence: a, b, c or d.

Check my answers

Intermediate language point

The past continuous is considered a narrative tense and can be used to create or describe the atmosphere at a time in the past or for a story.

For example:

The past continuous can be used to express a repeated annoying action in the past, using always or constantly.

For example:

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Video lessons - 4 lessons including English for emails and presentations
 
Video lessons - 10 additional video lessons including English for finance, strategy, M&A, job interviews
 
Dictation - 5 general English exercises
 
Dictation - 5 business English exercises