Past Continuous Tense

The Past Continuous tense is used to talk about what was happening at a special time in the past. It is also known as the Past Progressive. You will be able to see the forms, learn how to use it, and then practice by using our link to test your knowledge of the Past Continuous.

Present Simple Form

Affirmative

Subject Verb Form
I / He / She / It was playing
You / We / They were playing

Negative

Subject Verb Form
I / He / She / It was not playing
You / We / They were not playing

‘Wasn’t’ is the contracted form of ‘was not’
‘Weren’t’ is the contracted form of ‘were not’

Questions

Auxiliary Verb and Subject Verb Form
Was + I / He / She / It playing?
Were + You / We / They playing?

Together with the past simple

  • I was walking in the park when I saw Bill.
  • I was reading the newspaper when she came.
  • They were talking when the concert started.

We keep using the past simple to say that one thing happened after another e.g., I was walking i the park when I saw Bill. I stopped and we talked about the party.

Advanced use

The past continuous is also used for repeated actions using always and similar words. By doing this the speaker is letting the listener know that this is a repeated action and irritating or cheeky.

  • She was always doing that, I didn’t like it.
  • They were constantly turning up late, I don’t know how they got away with it.

When not to use it

With the Past Continuous Tense, we cannot use it for certain verbs (like, love, know, realize, believe, remember, fit, seem etc.,).

  • I loved it, NOT – I was loving it.
  • You believed him, NOT – You were believing him.
  • They seemed nice, NOT –They were seeming nice
  • He realized before he left, NOT – He was realising before he left.
  • We preferred to go, NOT – We were preferring to go.

Repeated Actions

  • I knocked on the door 3 times, NOT – I was knocking on the door 3 times.
  • When I was a child I went there a lot, NOT – When I was a child I was going.