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Past Continuous Tense Definition and Examples

Past continuous tense is used to express a continued or ongoing action in past or to indicate that longer action in the past was interrupted.
The interruption is usually a shorter action in the Simple Past. Remember this can be a real interruption or just an interruption in time.

Past Continuous Tense Definition and Examples
Past Continuous Tense Definition and Examples

Structure Of Sentence 

Positive: (Subject + 1st form of verb + ing + Object)

  • I was watching TV.

Negative: (Subject + Was/ Were + not + 1st from of verb + ing + Object)

  • I was not watching TV.

Interrogative: (Was/ Were + Subject + 1st from of verb + ing + Object + ?)

  • Was I watching TV?
  • You were not listening to me when I told you to turn the oven off.
  • A: What were you doing when you broke your leg?
  • B: I was snowboarding.

More uses of past continuous tense

In the Simple Past, a specific time is used to show when an action began or finished. In the Past Continuous, a specific time only interrupts the action.

  • Last night at 6 PM, I ate dinner.
  • Last night at 6 PM, I was eating dinner.
    I started earlier; and at 6 PM, I was in the process of eating dinner.

Parallel Actions
When you use the Past Continuous with two actions in the same sentence, it expresses the idea that both actions were happening at the same time. The actions are parallel.

  • They were eating dinner, discussing their plans, and having a good time.
  • While Ali was reading, Hussain was watching television.

Repetition and Irritation with “Always”
The Past Continuous with words such as “always” or “constantly” expresses the idea that something irritating or shocking often happened in the past. The concept is very similar to the expression “used to” but with negative emotion. Remember to put the words “always” or “constantly” between “be” and “verb+ing.

  • She was always coming to class late.
  • He was constantly talking. He annoyed everyone.

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