Home Grammar intermediate Past simple vs. past continuous

Past simple vs. past continuous

Introduction

Past simple

We use the past simple to describe:
Past continuous

We use the past continuous: We do not use the past continuous for habits in the past: not "I was taking the bus to school."
Past continuous vs. past simple

We can use the past simple and the past continuous in the same sentence structure with different meanings:

Using "when" and "while" to describe actions that happen at the same time

"when" and past simple

We use "when" with the past simple to describe two actions where one action is the result of another action, or happens immediately after:
"when" with past continuous and past simple

We use "when" with the past continuous and past simple: "while"

We use "while" with the past continuous to describe a continuous action that was in progress at the same time as another action, using either the past simple or past continuous:

Practice

Complete the sentences using the past simple or past continuous form of the verb in brackets:

  • When he was younger, he his bicyle every day. (ride)
     
  • He a mountain when the storm began. (climb)
     
  • Who you to when I saw you last night? (speak)
     
  • I in Spain when my passport. (travel / lose)
     

Further practice

Complete the sentences with the correct answer from a, b, c or d:



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