Questions in the Past Continuous Tense

Past Continuous Tense - Lesson #4

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.

We studied making sentences and yes/no questions in the past two lesson, and in this lesson, we will look at making past continuous questions with question words.

Follow this pattern.

Question Word + was/were + subject + verb(-ing)…?
  • What were you doing last night from 8 to 10?
  • What was she doing when she hurt her leg?
  • When were you planning on telling me?
  • Why were you crying last night?
We can also make questions with "What + noun" or "Which + noun".
  • What time were you studying in the library yesterday?
  • What food was he buying when you saw him?
  • Which hotel was he going into when you saw him?
We can make other questions with the word "How".
  • How many cigarettes were you smoking per day when you were a smoker?
  • How much time were you spending writing reports when you worked there?
These kinds of questions are very common when asking what was happening when another event occurred.
  • What was he doing when he broke his leg?
  • What was she doing when her baby got hurt?
  • What were they doing when their dog ran away?
Remember that sometimes "What" or "Who" can be the subject of the sentence. The noun in "How many + noun..." can also be the subject of a sentence. The questions are a little different than the questions above.
  • Who was crying last night?
  • What was making that noise last night?
  • How many people were watching the movie at your house last night?
Many times, you can use either the past tense or the past continuous.
  • Where did you play?
    (=Where were you playing?)
Questions like these have the same or similar meanings, so many times it is okay to use either one. However, it is much more common to use the simple past tense.

Sometimes they have different meanings. Study these two examples.

A) What did you do when you saw him?
B) I cried when I saw him.

A) What were you doing when you saw him?
B) I was going to the store when I saw him.

Although the past continuous is not used as much as some of the other verb tenses, it is still very important to know.

The best way to practice is to look at many examples and to make your own questions.

Example Questions
  • What were you doing when you saw him?
  • What was she doing when she got hurt?
  • What were you two talking about?

  • Where was she going when you saw her?
  • Where were you playing soccer yesterday?
  • Where were they playing music last Friday?

  • When was the movie playing?
  • When were the children studying?
  • When were you having a picnic in the park?

  • Why were you crying?
  • Why was he laughing?
  • Why were the managers acting worried?

  • Who were you talking to?
  • Who were they fighting with?
  • Who was playing the piano earlier?
  • Who was laughing during the speech?

  • How were you not crying during the movie?
  • How was he walking with a broken leg?

  • What time were you playing basketball last Saturday?
  • Which book were you reading when I saw you?
English Conversation 1

A) What were you doing when I saw you last night?
B) I was taking a walk.
A) Who were you walking with? Was that your boyfriend?
B) Haha. No. That was my brother. He is visiting me for a week.

English Conversation 2

A) I saw you last night.
B) Where?
A) At the restaurant.
B) Where were you sitting?
A) I was sitting near the door. I didn't say hello because it looked like you were having a serious conversation and I didn't want to interrupt.
B) No. We were just talking about politics. You should've said hello.

Learn to speak English fluently. Practice by finishing the questions below and then practice making your own questions. It is an effective way to learn English.

Tip: Say the questions aloud. This will help you practice speaking English and improve your English fluency.

What were you _______________ last night?
What was he doing when _______________?
Who was _______________?
Where were you _______________?
What were they doing when they _______________?
What were you _______________?
What was he _______________ yesterday morning?
What were you _______________ earlier?
Where were you _______________ last year?
When were you _______________?
Why was he _______________?