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Lesson 28
past continuous tense

the past continuous tense

Use the past continuous tense for a past action that was continuous. It started at one time in the past, and it ended in another time in the past. 

 

  • I was working all day yesterday. (I worked from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.) 
  • My students were listening to me as I was teaching them. (They started to listen at 9:15 a.m. until I stopped talking ten minutes later.) 
  • What were you doing yesterday? 

28a. the past continuous tense ✍🏾

singular

I was working. 

You were working. 

He was working. 

She was working. 

It was working. 

 

plural

We were working. 

You were working. 

They were working. 

This is what I was doing yesterday. 

28a. Examples

farmer, plantation, manual work-1367104.jpg
  • He was working yesterday.
  • Other people were working nearby.
  • The sun was shining
  • Everyone was trying to get the work done on time. 

To make a verb in the past continuous tense negative, add “not” to 

was or were:  was not = wasn’t;  were not = weren’t. 

28b. (be) + main verb + ing

To form the past continuous tense, the helping verb (be) is in the past tense and it matches matches the subject. The main verb has an “ing” ending: 

Subject + (be: was or were) + _________ing

  • I was teaching English last night.  (I + was + teach + ing) 
  • You were listening to a podcast. English. (You + were + listen + ing) 
  • The students weren’t listening to the teacher. (students + were + not + listen + ing) 
  • He was helping someone.  (He + was + help + ing) 
  • The buses were waiting at the light.  (The buses + were + wait + ing) 

The past continuous tense is different from the past tense. Use it to talk about activities that take place during a period of time in the past. 

28b. Examples ✍🏾

young, cat, window-1373879.jpg
  •  A: What was the cat doing?
  • B: The cat was looking out the window. 
  •  A: What was he looking at?
  • B: He was looking at some birds.
  • A: What were you doing before you came to class today? 
  • B: I was talking on the phone. 

28c. daily activities in the past

The past continuous tense is useful when talking about lifestyle, living arrangement, and past habits. 

  • Cindy was eating a lot of red meat before she switched to a vegan diet. (Cindy/she + was + eat + ing) 
  • You were living in a different country ten years ago.   (You + were + live + ing) 
  • I was learning how to paint when I lived in Paris.  (She + is + study + ing) 
  • They were having a good time until the party ended.  (They + were + have + ing) 

What were you doing ten years ago? 

28c. Examples ✍🏾

food, market, buffet-8752880.jpg
  •  I was starting to get fat because I ate a lot of fried food. 

This activity was happening in the past over a period of years. 

music, dj, party-7238254.jpg
  •  Tony was working as a DJ and having the time of his life in his twenties. 

This activity was happening during a time in a person’s life. 

28d. two activities in the past

The past continuous tense is often used for two past activities that happen at the same time. 

  • I was working in my garden when my phone rang. 
  • I was working in my garden while my kids were playing in the backyard. 
  • As Harold was walking home, he noticed a strange light in the sky. 
  • We were eating dinner when suddenly we heard a knock at the door. 

28d. Examples ✍🏾

couple, boardwalk, silhouettes-1783843.jpg
  • They walked along the boardwalk while it was raining
  • While it was raining, they noticed their umbrella had a hole in it. 
boy, vintage, school-2026310.jpg
  • The boy took notes as the teacher was speaking
  • He was listening to the teacher and taking notes. (In this sentence, the verb is compound. There is one helping verb:  was listening and taking

Write in your notebook. ✍🏾

Directions: Write each sentence with the verb in the past continuous tense. 

1. She  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ yesterday. (work) 

2. It _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ when we left this morning. (rain–negative) 

3. The students _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ about their test scores. (wonder) 

4. I _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ about selling my car until I found out how much it was worth. (think–negative) 

5. You _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ last night. (snore) 

6. The kids _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ a lot of noise last night. (make) 

7. The class _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ just _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ when Kate arrived. (begin)

8. I _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ just _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ a question. (ask) 

9. We _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  an efficient washing machine. (use–negative)

10. The city _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ a lot of money on mowing the grass. (waste) 

The answers are below. 

In the next lesson, you will learn to form questions in the past continuous tense. 

Write in your notebook. ✍🏾

Here are the answers: 

1. She was working yesterday. (work) 

2. It wasn’t raining when we left this morning. (rain) 

3. The students were wondering about their test scores. (wonder) 

4. I wasn’t thinking about selling my car until I found out how much it was worth. (think) 

5. You were snoring last night. (snore) 

6. The kids were making a lot of noise last night. (make) 

7. The class was just beginning when Kate arrived. (begin)

8. I was just asking a question. (ask) 

9. We weren’t using  an efficient washing machine. (use)

10. The city was wasting a lot of money on mowing the grass. (waste) 

 

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