Past Continuous Tense - Quynh Huong Center for Foreign Language Translation & Education

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5 Aug 2014

Past Continuous Tense

a. Form: S + BE (Is/Are/Am) + Ving
b. Uses:
  • We often use the past continuous in sentences together with the past simple when this happens; the past continuous refers to longer, background activities, while the past simple refers to shorter actions that happened in the middle of the longer ones. Ex: when I went to school, I saw Jim was talking with a beautiful girl.
  • The past continuous expresses a past activity that has duration. Ex: I met her while I was walking on the street. You were making a lots noise last night. We were playing football yesterday afternoon.
  • The activity began "before" the action expressed by the past simple. Ex: she was making coffee when we arrived. When I phoned Marry, she was having dinner.
  • The past continuous expresses an activity in progress before, and probable after, a time in the past. Ex: when I woke up this morning, the sun was shining. What were you doing at 8 o'clock last night?
c. Past simple - Past continuous
  • The past simple expresses past actions as simple facts. Ex: I did my homework last night. What sis you do yesterday evening? "I watched TV".
  • The past continuous gives past activities time and duration. The activity can be interrupted. Ex: what were you doing at 7.00? I was watching TV. I was doing homework when Tom arrived.
  • In stories, the past continuous can describe the scene. The past simple tells the actions. Ex: it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the birds were singing, so we decided to go for a picnic. We put everything in the car...
The questions below refer to different time periods. The past continuous asks about activities before, and the past simple asks about what happened after.
Ex: What were you doing? / What did you do? When it started to rain? We were playing tennis. We went home.

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