Past Continuous Tense


Affirmative sentences

SubjectVerb BeBase Verb + ing
I, She, He, ItwasBase Verb + ing
We, You, TheywereBase Verb + ing
  • I was parking my car when I hit the boy.
  • We were having lunch when she gave me a birthday gift.
  • The baby was crying last night.

Negative sentences

SubjectVerb BeBase Verb + ing
I, She, He, Itwas notBase Verb + ing
We, You, Theywere notBase Verb + ing
  • I wasn’t doing anything when they asked me for help.
  • She wasn’t going to the hospital when the accident happened.
  • We were not driving too fast when the policeman stopped us.


Verb BeSubjectBase Verb + ing
(Wh) WasI, she, he, itBase Verb + ing
(Wh) Werewe, you, theyBase Verb + ing
  • Were you studying when the power went off?  Yes, I was. / No, I wasn’t.
  • What was she doing when she broke her leg?
  • Was it raining when you left home?

Uses of the past continuous tense

An action that was in progress at a particular time in the past

  • At 5 pm yesterday, we were shopping.
  • I was discussing the new design with my client in the morning.
  • I was sleeping at 10 pm last night
Past Continuous Tense 4

An action that was in progress when another action interrupted it

We use the past continuous tense for the action that was in progress (longer action) and the past simple tense for the action that interrupted it (shorter action).

  • She was driving home when she felt pain in her stomach.
  • When you called last night, I was sleeping.
  • They were walking in the park when the storm started.
Past Continuous Tense 6

Two actions that were in progress at the same time in the past

We use the past continuous tense for both actions.

  • I was helping my son with his homework while my husband was fixing the TV.
  • While I was washing the car, the children were playing.
  • She was reading the newspaper while her daughter was drawing.
Past Continuous Tense 8

Story setting

The past continuous tense is used to give background information to describe a story setting.

  • Last night, my grandmother was sitting on her purple sofa. She was knitting and listening to her favorite music. I was looking at the snow through the window.

Non-continuous verbs

A group of verbs that describe the state of the subject are always used in simple tenses. They are not used in continuous tenses because continuous verbs describe actions that have a duration (beginning, progress and end), which does not apply to state verbs.

Stative verbs are used in simple tenses to express current time.

Examples of these verbs are verbs of senses (see, smell, taste, etc.), verbs of opinion (believe, consider, think, etc.), verbs of mental state (forget, imagine, know, etc.), verbs of emotions and desires (like, love, prefer, etc.).

For a list of the most common state verbs with examples, check Stative Verbs.