The Past Continuous Tense

Much the same as the 'Present Continuous Tense' the 'Past Continuous Tense shares everything except for 'Time'

We can see by the name 'The Past....'

We use the past continuous in 2 main ways. (There are other ways which we will cover later in the lesson).

  1.  To talk about actions which 'were happening' at a time in the past.
  2.  To talk about actions which 'were happening' when another action 'happened'

Upon looking at the structure we can see from the example sentences that we have the:

Subject     verb        present participle.

              was/wasn't     sleeping

He             was/wasn't      talking

They         were/weren't   driving

The only difference between the present and past tense is the use of the verb 'To Be'

In the past continuous we use the past 'was and were' as our verbs.


At 6 pm yesterday I was walking home from work.

I was walking home from work at 6 pm yesterday.

This example gives us a time in the past and tells us what was happening at this time. The time can be at the begining or at the end.

The other use is when 2 actions are talked about.  The 1st action 'was happening' when the 2nd action interrupted it.

The structure is Past Continuous + Past Simple.

I was walking along the street when I met my friend.

I met my friend while I was walking along the street.

(Grammar = when + past simple/while + past continuous).

Some other uses for the past continuous tense.

To show that something continued for some time:

My feet were aching.
Everyone was talking at the same time.

For something that was happening again and again:

I was practicing every day, three times a day.
They were meeting secretly after school.
They were always quarreling.

With verbs which show change or growth:

The children were growing up so quickly.
Her English wasn't improving.
My hair was going grey.
Her parents were getting old.

Watch the video (Crown Academy) for more examples and pronunciation tips.


Read and then complete the worksheet for more practice.

The Past Continuous Tense

The Past Continuous Tense

This is the end of the lesson.

Thank you.