• English grammar
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  • 1 English alphabet
  • 2 English pronunciation and phonetics [0/3]
  • 3 English articles [0/9]
  • 4 English pronouns [0/39]
  • 4.1 English personal pronouns [0/3]
  • 4.2 English impersonal pronouns (it, there, ...) [0/4]
  • 4.3 English object pronouns [0/3]
  • 4.4 English possessive pronouns [0/5]
  • 4.5 English reflexive pronouns [0/4]
  • 4.6 English reciprocal pronouns [0/4]
  • 4.7 English demonstrative pronouns [0/3]
  • 4.8 English relative pronouns [0/4]
  • 4.9 English indefinite pronouns [0/5]
  • 4.10 English interrogative pronouns [0/4]
  • 5 English nouns [0/16]
  • 6 English adjectives [0/38]
  • 6.1 Adjectives of quality in English [0/4]
  • 6.2 Demonstrative adjectives in English [0/4]
  • 6.3 Possessive adjectives in English [0/4]
  • 6.4 Quantity adjectives in English [0/4]
  • 6.5 Interrogative adjectives in English [0/4]
  • 6.6 Numeral adjectives in English [0/8]
  • 6.7 Comparatives and superlatives [0/10]
  • 7 English adverbs [0/18]
  • 7.1 Position of adverbs in English [0/2]
  • 7.2 Adverbs of manner in English [0/2]
  • 7.3 Adverbs of place in English [0/2]
  • 7.4 Adverbs of time in English [0/2]
  • 7.5 Adverbs of quantity in English [0/2]
  • 7.6 Adverbs of frequency in English [0/2]
  • 7.7 Adverbs of degree in English [0/2]
  • 7.8 Adverbs of probability and certainty in English [0/2]
  • 7.9 Adverbs of opinion and observation in English [0/2]
  • 8 English prepositions [0/12]
  • 9 English verbs [0/122]
  • 9.1 Present tenses in English [0/29]
  • Fill in the correct present tense in English (Score -/-)Free
  • Exercise about all present tenses in English (Score -/-)Free
  • Mixed present tenses exercise in English (Score -/-)Free
  • Practice all the English present tenses (Score -/-)Free
  • 9.1.1 Present simple tense in English [0/5]
  • 9.1.2 Present continuous tense in English [0/4]
  • 9.1.3 Present simple vs present continuous in English [0/4]
  • 9.1.4 Present perfect tense in English [0/4]
  • 9.1.5 Present perfect continuous tense in English [0/4]
  • 9.1.6 Difference past simple and present perfect in English [0/4]
  • 9.2 Past tenses in English [0/20]
  • 9.3 Future tenses in English [0/21]
  • 9.4 Auxiliary verbs in English [0/9]
  • 9.5 Present participle in English [0/3]
  • 9.6 Past participle in English [0/3]
  • 9.7 Modal verbs in English [0/11]
  • 9.8 Phrasal verbs in English [0/3]
  • 9.9 Regular verbs in English [0/3]
  • 9.10 Irregular verbs in English [0/3]
  • 9.11 Gerund (-ing form) in English [0/8]
  • 9.12 Infinitive verbs in English [0/3]
  • 9.13 Imperative in English [0/2]
  • 9.14 Reported speech in English [0/2]
  • 9.15 Active and passive voice in English [0/2]
  • 10 English conditionals [0/20]
  • This chapter will discuss the past continuous tense in English. This tense is used to describe actions starting in the past and are still continuing in the present. 

    Structure of past continuous tense in English

    The past continuous is formed with the past simple of the auxiliary verb 'to be' and the present participle of the verb.

    to be + present participle (infinitive + ing)

    Past continuous tense examples:

    • He was working at the supermarket.
    • The sun was shining. 

    How to form the past continuous tense 

    How the past continuous tense is formed, depends on whether the sentence is:

    1. Affirmative: expresses the truth of a certain assertion.
    2. Negative: expresses the falsity of a certain assertion. 
    3. Interrogative: expresses a question.

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    1. Affirmatives

    Structure: Subject + 'to be' in the past simple form + present participle (verb + suffix 'ing') + rest of the sentence

    Subject Past form of 'to be'
    I was
    You were
    He / she /it was
    We were
    You were
    They were

    Examples:

    • I was walking to school.
    • He was cooking a meal for his family.
    • They were drinking beer in a bar.

    2. Negatives

    Structure: Subject + negative form of 'to be' in the past + present participle (verb + suffix 'ing') + rest of the sentence

    Subject Negative past form of 'to be' 
    I was not
    You were not
    He / she / it was not
    We were not
    You were not
    They were not

    Examples:

    • She was not working at the office on Friday.
    • We were not having dinner at the restaurant last week.
    • They were not paying attention in class, because they were talking. 

    3. Interrogatives

    Structure: 'To be' in the past form + subject + present participle (verb + suffix 'ing') + rest of the sentence + question mark

    Examples:

    • Were you coming to the party?
    • Was he really traveling through Australia?
    • Were they running to catch the bus?

    Usage of the past continuous in English

    The table below shows when the past continuous is used in English.

    Use Example
    To indicate an action that was interrupted by another action
    • I was sleeping when the fire alarm went off.
    • When she arrived, I was reading a book.
    To express a change of opinion
    • I was going to the beach, but then it started to rain.
    • She was going to walk to work, but then there was a snow storm. 
    Actions that occurred at a specific time in the past
    • They were still having dinner at 11 o'clock last night.
    • They were not living in Valencia in 2016. 
    Two actions that were happening at the same time in the past
    • I was reading a book while he was studying.
    • They were having a meeting, discussing their plans and were eating lunch. 

    When and while in English

    The past continuous tense in English often contains the words 'when' or 'while'. Both of these are used when two or more actions are taking place. 

    'When' is used when talking about situations which happened at the moment another action was in progress. 

    • They were reading a book when the doorbell rang.

    enlightenedPast simple tense is used after 'when'. 

    'While' is used when talking about situations that happen at the same time.

    • I was reading a book while my mother was cooking dinner. 

    enlightenedPast continuous tense is used after 'while'.

    Train your skills by doing the exercises below!