Past Continuous Tense Overview

Past Continuous Tense - Lesson #1

We use the past continuous tense to talk about actions or events that happened or continued for a certain amount of time in the past.

This is the past tense version of the present continuous.
  • I am studying English now. (present continuous)
  • I was studying English last night when you called. (past continuous)
We often use the past continuous when we tell stories. The past continuous is a great way to give background information.
  • I was walking home and then I saw her.
It is also used to tell about 2 things that were happening at the same time in the past.
  • He was crying while she was laughing.
It also used to things that continued for an extended period of time in the past.
  • It was raining all night.
Here is how you make the past continuous. If you know how to make the present continuous then this will be very easy.

Subject + was/were + verb(-ing)…
  • I was working last night when you called so I couldn't talk.
  • They were holding hands when I saw them last night.
  • I was studying while my sister was cooking dinner.
  • It was raining while we were playing soccer.
  • They were playing soccer when the storm started.
Put "not" after the be verb to make a negative sentence.
  • I was not studying when the teacher came into the classroom.
  • We were not dating when I met you.
  • He was not working at that time.
We can make yes/no sentences by putting the "be verb" first.

Was/Were + subject + verb(-ing)…?
  • Was it raining earlier?
  • Were you shopping at the mall yesterday afternoon?
  • Were they taking the same class last semester?
Of course, we can also make questions with question words.

Question Word + was/were + subject + verb(-ing)…?
  • What were you doing last night when I saw you?
  • Where were you going last night when I saw you running down the street?
  • Why was he crying last night?
  • Why was he singing this morning?
  • How were you carrying that table by yourself?
This grammar point is not used as much as other English verb tenses, but it can be very useful when telling a story or when talking about things or situations that continued for a period of time in the past.

We will go over the past continuous in more detail in the upcoming free English grammar lessons.