Past Continuous Tense - Orchids The International School
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Tenses

Concept: Past Continuous Tense

Definition:

  • The past continuous tense refers to a continuing action or state that was happening at some point in the past.
  • The past continuous tense is also known as the past progressive tense.

Examples:

Boy

What is the action done by the speaker in the given an example?

Correct! Sleeping

In the above sentence, the speaker was doing an action (sleeping) that was taking place when the robber came (This takes place in the past). Therefore, this is an example of past continuous tense.

How to Form the Past Continuous Tense?

1. We use the past tense of the auxiliary ‘be’ verb form ‘was/were’ followed by the present participle of the verb to form the past continuous tense. We form the present participle verb by adding ‘-ing’ to the main verb.

Boy

Examples:

Kevin was play-ing yesterday.

2. If the subject is a singular noun or singular pronoun (he, she, it) or the personal pronoun (I), the past auxiliary ‘be’ verb form used will be ‘was’.

Examples:

  1. Suresh was watching a movie last night.
  2. He was doing his homework when I went to his house.
  3. She was buying clothes from the market.
  4. I was crying because my mother scolded me

3. If the subject is a plural noun or plural pronoun (we, you, they), the past auxiliary ‘be’ verb form used will be ‘were’.

Examples:

  1. Reeta and Rahim were performing a song at their school’s annual function
  2. We were celebrating our victory last night.
  3. They were waiting near the park for me.

4. To make the past continuous tense negative, we need to put the word ‘not’ after the auxiliaries ‘was’ or ‘were’.

Examples:

  1. We were not attending the function, but our parents forced us to be present there.
  2. Nilesh was not feeling well, so we stopped the meeting.

When do We Use the Past Continuous Tense?

1. We use past continuous tense to describe an action that was happening before another action started.

Examples:

Boy

The mother was washing the clothes before her son arrived. The action (washing) was continuously taking place when another action (arrived) happened.

2. It can be used to talk about an action that had already started and was still happening at a particular time. In these sentences the exact time is mentioned.

Examples:

Boy

These people started exercising at 4’o clock and finished at 6’o clock. So, the action ‘exercise’ was happening at a particular time in the past.

3. It is also used to show two actions that were happening simultaneously in the past.

Examples:

Boy

Both the actions ‘studying’ and ‘playing’ were already in progress at the same time in the past.

Common Mistake:

Past continuous tense should not be used to show habits in the past, instead in such cases the simple past tense should be used.

Examples:

I was cooking on my own during those days.

I cooked on my own during those days.

Boy
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