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GrammarThe Past Continuous

The Past Continuous


The Past Continuous Tense is used to describe actions that were in progress at a specific point in the past. It is also known as the Past Progressive Tense and it is used to express the duration and continuity of a past action.

Form of the Past Continuous

Formation: The Past Continuous Tense is formed using the auxiliary verb “was/were” followed by the present participle (-ing form) of the main verb. For example, “I was eating” or “They were playing.”

Was/were + verb (ing)


  • I was playing
  • He was playing
  • She was playing
  • It was playing
  • We were playing
  • You were playing
  • They were playing


  • I was not playing
  • He was not playing
  • She was not playing
  • It was not playing
  • We were not playing
  • You were not playing
  • They were not playing


  • Was I playing?
  • Was he playing?
  • Was she playing?
  • Was it playing?
  • Were we playing?
  • Were you playing?
  • Were they playing?

Notice :

was not = wasn’t

were not = weren’t

Use of the Past Continuous

We use the Past continuous :

  • With a very specific point in time in the past.

Example :

A: What were you doing yesterday at 19h30?

B: Yesterday at 19h30 I was doing my exercises

  • For a past action that continued for some time and whose exact limits are not known.

Example: He was driving so fast.

The past continuous
  • We use the past continuous with the simple past to show that the action of the continuous started before the action of the simple past and continued after it.

Example :

We were watching TV when the bell rang.

The past continuous
  • For  parallel/simultaneous actions happening at the same time


While/as we were studying English, other students were studying French.


The Simple Continuous Tense is often used with time expressions that indicate the duration of an action in the past. Here are some common time expressions used with this tense:

  • all day
  • all night
  • all week
  • all year
  • for an hour/two hours
  • for five minutes/ten minutes
  • for a month/six months
  • for a year/two years
  • from 2 PM to 4 PM
  • at 8 PM/9 AM
  • yesterday evening
  • last night
  • the whole day
  • the entire time
  • until 3 PM/4 PM
  • while

These time expressions help to specify the length or duration of the action described in the Past Continuous Tense and make it clear that it was in progress at a specific point in the past.

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