Past Continuous Tense
Past continuous tense sentences follow the guidelines below:
|subject||+||auxiliary verb BE||+||main verb|
|conjugated in simple past tense||present participle|
|base verb + ing|
Negative past continuous sentences are constructed with the word not between the auxiliary verb and the subject. To form questions switch the subject and the auxiliary verb. For example:
|subject||auxiliary verb||main verb|
The past continuous tense is used to talk about an action that occurred at a particular time in the past. The action or event started before the particular time and has not finished at the time you are talking about it.
Take these two sentences to form a past continuous sentence: Yesterday I drove to work. I left at 6:30am and arrived at work at 7:35am.
|I was driving to work at 7AM yesterday.|
|____ 7 am ____|
|At 7am I was still driving to work.|
Here are a few more examples:
- I was watching a movie at 7pm last night.
- He was playing football at 9am this morning.
- Where were you driving to at 11pm last night?
- What were you doing when I got here?
Past Continuous Tense + Simple Past Tense
The past continuous tense is often used with simple past tense. We use the simple past tense to refer to short actions that happen while the long actions are happening. The long actions are expressed using past continuous tense. These are joined by using when and while.
Consider these two actions:
- long action (reading a book) in the past continuous tense
- short action (texted) in the simple past tense
|Long action: She was reading a book at 7pm.|
|Short action: John texted her at 7pm.|
The past continuous is created by taking these two actions and joining them with when:
- She was reading a book when John texted her.
- “when” with a short action (in simple past tense)
- “while” with a long action (in past continuous tense)
Here are four basic examples of sentence constructions that join simple past tense and past continuous tense:
|I was cooking dinner||when||you returned.|
|When||you returned||I was cooking dinner.|
|You returned||while||I was cooking dinner.|
|While||I was cooking dinner||you returned.|
Remember, that what which is considered a long action and short action are relative to each other:
- Cooking dinner took more than a few moments, whereas returned took only a few seconds.
- Reading a book took a few hours, whereas texted only took a moment.