Past Continuous


What is the past continuous?

  • We use the past continuous to talk about an ongoing action in the past.

    • In 2010, I was living in Korea.

    • Susie was teaching English for several years.

    • My mom and dad were traveling through Europe.

How do we use the past continuous?

  • We make the past continuous like this: subject + was/were + verb-ing

  • The past continuous is often used with another verb tense like the simple past.

    • Zoe was attending (past continuous) college when she met (simple past) Sally.

  • We often use the past continuous when we are telling stories. The past continuous tells us what was happening before something interrupted the action. Sometimes the past continuous is used with another past continuous verb to show two things that were happening at the same time.

    • John was sleeping when his dog barked and woke him up. (John’s action was interrupted by his dog’s action.)

    • At 9pm, Josh was still working. (Josh’s action was interrupted by a specific time.)

    • Were you paying attention while I was talking to you? (No interruption, two simultaneous events were happening at the same time.)

One more thing!

  • When we talk about things that happened in the past, we often use “when” or “while” to start clauses. We use “when” before a past simple verb and “while” before a past continuous verb.

    • When Jerry called his mom, she was playing golf.

    • While you were sleeping, someone delivered a package.


I. Fill in the blanks

  • _______  you _______________ TV when the phone rang?

  • John and James __________     _______________ to music when they decided to eat a snack.

  • While I ____________     _________________, my brother __________   ______________ piano. (sing, play)

  • Sarah __________    ___________________ when someone ____________ her name. (think, call)

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