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Practice with the exercises:
Exercise 1

1. The past continuous

The past continuous is used to talk about an action that was in progress in the past.
I was having a shower when the telephone rang.
While we were sailing a whale appeared.

2. Structure of past continuous 

  • Affirmative form
    Subject auxiliarY
    (past form)
    Verb
    (-ING)
    Examples
    I was sleeping I was sleeping on the sofa.
    You were You were sleeping on the sofa.
    He was He was sleeping on the sofa.
    She She was sleeping on the sofa.
    It It was sleeping on the sofa.
    We were We were sleeping on the sofa.
    You You were sleeping on the sofa.
    They They were sleeping on the sofa.
    There is no contracted form of the affirmative of the verb to be.
  • Negative form
    Subject auxiliarY 
    (past form) 
    Verb
    (-ING)
    Examples
    I was not
    wasn't
    sleeping I wasn't sleeping on the sofa.
    You were not
    weren't
    You weren't sleeping on the sofa.
    He was not
    wasn't
    He wasn't sleeping on the sofa.
    She She wasn't sleeping on the sofa.
    It It wasn't sleeping on the sofa.
    We were not
    weren't
    We weren't sleeping on the sofa.
    You You weren't sleeping on the sofa.
    They They weren't sleeping on the sofa.
  • Interrogative form
    auxiliarY Subject Verb
    (-ING)
    Examples
    Was I sleeping? Was I sleeping on the sofa?
    Were you Were you sleeping on the sofa?
    Was he Was he sleeping on the sofa?
    she Was she sleeping on the sofa?
    it Was it sleeping on the sofa?
    Were we Were we sleeping on the sofa?
    you Were you sleeping on the sofa?
    they Were they sleeping on the sofa?

    Interrogative sentences in past continuous also have their own short answers.

    Adverb Subject AuxiliarY
    Yes, I was
    you were
    he was
    she
    it
    we were
    you
    they
    Adverb Subject AuxiliarY
    No, I wasn't
    you weren't
    he wasn't
    she
    it
    we weren't
    you
    they
    Was she looking at me? Yes, she was.
    Were they partyingNo, they weren't.

3. How is the past continuous used?

The continuous past is used for:

  • An unfinished action that was taking place at a particular time in the past. This action began before that time and continued.
    Yesterday at 6:00 p.m. we were preparing the meal.
  • Descriptions.
    This morning it was raining.
    An old lady was sitting on a bench.
  • When two unfinished actions occur at the same time. These actions are usually connected by the words "while" or "when".
    While you were brushing your teeth I was sleeping.
    While she was calling her mum, her sister was crying.

Remember!

The past continuous is used to refer to unfinished actions that were taking place at a particular time in the past.
  Structure Examples
AFFIRMATIVE Subject + was / were + verb (-ing) + (complement) When I saw them they were sitting at a café.
NEGATIVE Subject + was / were + not + verb (-ing) + (complement) What did you say? I wasn't listening.
INTERROGATIVE Was / Were + subject + verb (-ing) + (complement)? What were you talking about?

 

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