Past Continuous Tense

Past Continuous Tense

Past continuous tense is used to;

  • describe an action or event at or around a time in the past,
  • talk about temporary situations in the past,
  • describe a scene in the past, specifically  when you are telling a story,
  • describe something you did until an event or action that interrupted and stopped you.

Grammar rule for past continuous tense is as followings;

Positive Sentences: Subject + was/were +Verb(ing) + complement

Negative Sentences: Subject + was/were + not + Verb(ing) + complement

Question Sentences: Was/were + subject + Verb(ing) + complement   or     Question Words(what, etc.) + was/were + subject + Verb(ing) + complement


  • He was studying. / They were watching TV.
  • She wasn’t working. / We weren’t playing basketball.
  • Was he driving? / What were you doing?

Note: Generally, verbs such as like, see, hear, think agree are not used in the past continuous tense.

Comparison Of Past Simple Tense And Past Continuous Tense

  1. While we use past simple tense to describe one or more action that finished in the past, we use past continuous tense to describe an uncompleted action or event at and around a time in the past.
  2. Example; We arrived home at 5 o’clock and went to sleep. /When we arrived home, my brother was sleeping. (The sleeping was not finished when we arrived.)
  3. While we use past simple tense to describe when one action or event happened after another, we use past continuous tense to describe something that you were doing at the time when another thing happened.
  4. Example; When he came, we played computer games. / When he came, we were playing computer games. (We were playing computer games at the time he came.)

Note: Although, both of “when” and “while” can be used before the past continuous tense, “while” cannot be used before past simple tense. Example; While we arrived, they were watching TV. (wrong) / When we arrived, they were watching TV. (Correct)


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Categorised in: English, İngilizce

This post was written by Emre Bilgiç

Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University


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