Past Continuous Tense English Grade 3 | Orchids International School
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Past Continuous Tense


The past continuous tense shows a continuing action or state that was happening at some point in the past. It is formed with a combination of the ‘to be’ verb (i.e., was/were) in the past tense with the main verb’s present participle ‘-ing’ word.


  1. I was preparing dinner when he arrived.
  2. Example for Past Continuous Tense
  3. We were joking with our friends.
  4. Example for Past Continuous Tense

When is the Past Continuous Tense used?

  1. To show a continuous action in the past that was interrupted or stopped.


    1. I was watching TV when my mother called.
    2. While we were enjoying the picnic, it started to rain.
  2. To show a continuous action in the past at a specific time.
  3. Examples:

    1. Last night at 10 pm, I was eating dinner.
    2. At midnight, we were still driving to reach home.
  4. To express the idea of parallel actions.
  5. Examples:

    1. I was cleaning utensils while he was washing clothes.
    2. They were having dinner and discussing their holiday trip.

    How to Form a Past Continuous Tense?

    To form the past continuous tense, follow the order:

    Structure of Past Continuous Tense

    Example :

    We were painting the wall.

    Now let us look at how a past continuous tense is formed in negative, affirmative and interrogative sentences.

    A. Affirmative Sentence
    He was sleeping.
    B. Negative Sentence
    He wasn't sleeping.
    C. Interrogative Sentence
    Was he sleeping?
    D. Interrogative Negative Sentence
    Wasn't he sleeping?

Common Mistakes

  1. Confusion on the usage of ‘while’ and ‘when’ in referring to the past.
  2. Examples :

    I was studying when my brother called.

    I was studying while my brother called.

    While I was playing, he called.

    When I was playing, he called.

  3. Using non-continuous verbs like ‘be’ in the –ing form to frame a past continuous tense. Instead, use the verb that describes the action to make a past continuous sentence.
  4. Examples :

    She was staying at my house when he arrived.

    She was being at my house when he arrived.

    Instead of using past continuous, use simple past tense.


  1. When adding –ing suffix, the final consonant ‘l’ of the root word is always doubled.
  2. Example :

    travel – travelling

  3. If the verb ends with the letter ‘e’, it is omitted before adding -ing.
  4. Example :

    come – coming but not applicable for see – seeing

  5. If the verb ends with the vowels ‘ie’, it changes to ‘y’ prior to adding the –ing suffix.
  6. Example :

    die – dying

Structure of Past Continuous Tense
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