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Home Grammar Tenses Usage How to Use Past Continuous Tense

February 19, 2020

How to Use Past Continuous Tense

How to Use Past Continuous Tense
The Structure of Past Continuous Tense
Was/were + V-ing
  • The wind was blowing gently.
  • Some workers were repairing the road.
  • Fani and I were walking along the beach.
How to Use Past Continuous Tense
  1. Past continuous tense is used to talk about what was happening at a particular time in the past.
    • What were you doing yesterday at seven p.m.?
    • When she entered the room, the students were doing the assignment.
    Compare these two sentences. They refer to different situations:
    • When the guest arrived, we were still preparing dinner.
    • When the guest arrived, we prepared dinner.
  2. In narratives (stories, etc.), the past continuous is often used for descriptions, and the past simple for events and actions.
    The bride was wearing a white dress and carrying a bouquet of lilies. Suddenly, a man stood up at the back of the church. He said ....
  3. The past continuous is used for temporary actions and situations in the past. For longer or more permanent situations, we usually use the past simple.
    The earthquake happened while I was living in Bantul last year.
    I lived in Malang for ten years when I was a child.
  4. In the expressions "I was wondering if you could/would…….., I was hoping, and I was thinking", the past continuous is used to make a request or suggestion sound more polite or less definite.
    I was wondering if you’d like to go out with me for dinner one evening.
  5. The past continuous can be used to indicate a gradually developing situation.
    It was getting darker.
    The wind was rising.
  6. In indirect speech, the past continuous is used as a past equivalent of the present continuous:
    He said, “She is working.” He said that she was working.
  7. Just as in the present continuous, there are verbs that cannot be used in the past continuous.
A. Do this exercise. Put the verbs into the past continuous tense.
  1. The children were frightened because it (get) dark.
  2. He usually wears sandals but when I last saw him he (wear) boots.
  3. The car had nobody in it but the engine (run).
  4. Two children (play) on the sand and two fishermen (lean) against an upturned boat.
  5. When I first met her she (sit) alone at the porch.
  6. When I entered the library he (read) a book.
  7. She (stand) at the bus stop. I asked her what bus she (wait) for.
  8. I went into the garden to see what the boys (do). Ali (weed) and Eka (cut) the grass.
  9. While he (learn) to drive he had five accidents.
  10. While we (fish) somebody came and left this note.
  11. As she (climb) the ladder it slipped sideways and she fell off it.
  12. Tony didn’t eat much and said that he (try) to lose weight.
  13. I couldn’t hear her because the traffic (make) a lot of noise.
  14. From the sounds it was clear that someone (practice) the piano.
  15. The exam had just begun and the candidates (write) their names at the top of their papers.
B. Put the verbs into the simple past or the past continuous. Click here to learn more about the differences between the simple past and the past continuous.
  1. I (make) a cake when the light (go) out, so I (have) to finish it in the dark.
  2. When I (arrive) the lecture had already started and the professor (write) on the overhead projector.
  3. He suddenly (realize) that he (travel) in the wrong direction.
  4. He (play) the guitar outside her house when someone (open) the window and (throw) out a bucket of water.
  5. You (look) very busy when I (see) you last night. What you (do)?
  6. To get home, he (have) to go through a field where a bad-tempered bull usually (graze).
  7. This bull normally (not chase) people unless something (make) him angry.
  8. Unfortunately, as he (cross) the field, his mobile phone suddenly (ring) loudly.
  9. While he (water) the flowers it (begin) to rain. He (put) up his umbrella and (go) on watering.
  10. I (find) this ring as I (dig) in the garden.
  11. When he (arrive) at the station, his parents (wait) for him. As soon as he (see) them he (wave) his hand and (call) them.
  12. The men (say) that they (work) on the road outside my house and that they (want) some water to make coffee.
  13. Why you (lend) him that book? I still (read) it.
  14. When I (call) the tailor yesterday he (say) that he (work) on my suit.
  15. When I last (see) her she (hurry) along the road to the station. I (ask) her where she (go) and she (say), ‘Surabaya’.
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