Verbs - Past Continuous

We use past continuous for:-
  • Actions in progress in the past e.g. Helen was having breakfast at 8:00.
  • A short action in the middle of a longer action e.g. The fishermen were going home (long action = past continuous) when they saw a shark (short action = past simple).
Expressions with the past continuous: While, when, as.

We don’t use the past continuous for verbs which describe a state (thoughts, feelings, senses, possession) e.g. agree, be, believe, belong, contain, exist, forget, hate, have (possession), hear, imagine, know, like, love, mean, mind, need, notice, owe, prefer, realise, remember, seem, suppose, understand, want, wish

POSITIVE SENTENCES (was/were + ing)
I/She/He/It was playing
You/We/They were playing


She was putting her make-up on when I rang her.
They were cooking for many guests so they needed to start early.
He was exercising at the gym at 8pm last night.
We were sewing the children's fancy dress costumes so we couldn't come.
They were shopping for the party when we bumped into them.
Sandra was jogging in the park when the dog attacked her.
We didn't go into the room because the housekeeper was cleaning.
Toby was brushing his teeth because he had a meeting to go to.

NEGATIVE SENTENCES (wasn’t/weren’t + ing)
I/She/He/It was not (wasn’t) playing
You/We/They were not (weren’t) playing


Charles wasn't shaving when I arrived to take him to work.
They weren't painting their house yesterday as they needed a break.
I wasn't washing the dishes. In fact, I was relaxing.
You know we weren't playing cards. We had a group assignment to finish off.
The workers weren't digging the road when I went to check up on them.
We parked outside but we weren't eating at that restaurant.

QUESTIONS
Was I/She/He/It playing?
Were You/We/They playing?


Were you packing your bags this morning for the trip?
Were you rowing as early as 6am?
Was Bill tanning when the swimmer drowned?
Were the unemployed workers waiting in a line to get in?
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