Past Continuous Tense

Past Continuous Tense is a tense which is used to indicate a continuing action or event that was happening at some point in time in the past. It uses the auxiliary verb i.e. was or were + present participle. Some examples of Past Continuous Tense are – It was raining every day that week, As I spoke, people were applauding my skills, I was cooking when she called. Thus, you use Past Continuous Tense while describing any past event or condition which was continuing at some point in time in the past.

Past Continuous Tense

Definition of Past Continuous Tense

Past Continuous Tense is a tense which is used to indicate the actions or conditions that were happening at some point in time in the past but have now finished. In other words, past continuous tense is used to describe or indicate actions that began in the past and were continuing when another event occurred. It is important to note here that there may be two actions going on at the same time in the past, and one was interrupted by the happening of the other. Thus, both actions have occurred in the past. It is also known as the past progressive tense.

This tense uses was or were + present participle. In the forming of the past continuous tense, we use ‘was’ when the subject is Singular and ‘were’ when the subject is Plural. The second element that is the present participle is formed by adding -ing to the root of the verb.

For example, learning, studying, mixing, laughing, etc. While framing the questions using the past continuous tense, we indicate them by inverting the subject and was or were. For making negative sentences we use not.

Using Past Continuous Tense sentences to describe:

Following are the situations where we use Past Continuous Tense along with sentences:

  1. For any interrupted action or condition in the past

Sentence: While she was cooking food, the microwave blew.

It means that she was cooking food in the past and the doorbell rang. So, the first event i.e. cooking got interrupted by the occurrence of the second event i.e. the blowing off of the microwave.

  1. Interruption at a specific time

Sentence: Yesterday at 11 AM, I was having breakfast.

It means that at 11 AM I was in the process of having breakfast. I had started having breakfast earlier than 11 AM.

  1. Describes parallel actions or events

Sentence: He was listening to music while walking in the garden.

It means that listening to music and walking was going on simultaneously or at the same time.

  1. Describes Atmosphere

Sentence: When I reached the shopping mall, several people were busy buying clothes, children were playing in the gaming zone, and some were busy enjoying delicious food.

It expresses the atmosphere inside the shopping mall sometime in the past.

  1. Use of ‘always’ and ‘constantly’

Sentence: He was constantly talking and irritated me.

It means that his constant talking in the past had irritated me then.

Examples of Past Perfect Tense

For any interrupted action or condition in the past

The following examples express that a longer action was interrupted by a shorter action in the past.

  • He was listening to music, so he did not hear the phone ring.
  • It started to rain while we were walking in the garden.
  • While I was studying, the bulb fused.
  • While I was talking on the phone, she spilled the food on her dress.

Interruption at a specific time

The following examples express that a past action gets interrupted by a shorter action. Here, we can also mention that specific time.

  • Last morning at 7 AM, I was exercising.
  • Yesterday at midnight, she was studying for her exams.
  • Last night at 12 AM, I was partying with my friends.
  • At midnight, we were still waiting for a taxi.

Describes parallel actions or events

The following examples express that in the past two actions were happening at the same time or simultaneously.

  • While I was writing, he was cooking.
  • He was working on the laptop while I was watching a movie.
  • What were you doing while I was studying?
  • They were discussing their future plans while walking on the beach.

Describes Atmosphere

The following examples express the atmosphere of a particular place or at a particular time in the past.

  • When I reached the shop, the customers were busy shopping and the supplier was taking orders.
  • When I went to the beach, the people were playing with the waves and some were enjoying the street food.

Use of ‘always’ and ‘constantly’

The following examples express the action that often happened in the past which was irritating or shocking.

  • Jack was always coming to work late.
  • I did not enjoy myself with them because they were always showing off.
  • Sara was constantly dancing. She surprised everyone.

Note: We use ‘when’ to indicate a short action and ‘while’ to indicate a long action.

Questions on Past Continuous Tense

Fill in the blanks by choosing the correct word according to the rules of the past continuous tense:

Question.1. The sun _____ shining when I got out of my bed.

  1. Have been
  2. Has been
  3. Is
  4. Was

Answer. Option 4 – was

Question.2. Hari was _____ movie ______ I was working.

  1. watching, while
  2. watching, when
  3. watched, but
  4. watched, since

Answer. Option 1 – watching, while

Question. 3. They ____ listening to the songs when I was reading.

  1. Had been
  2. Have been
  3. Will be
  4. Were

Answer. Option 4 – were

Question.4. I ____ writing articles when he fell down.

  1. Am
  2. Was
  3. Have been
  4. Has been

Answer. Option 2 – was

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2 responses to “Uses of Tenses”

  1. Edwin says:

    What is the present perfect form of “He does not smoke”?
    What is the difference between “He does not have to smoke” and “He has not smoked”?

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