Past Continuous Tense With Example

Past Continuous Tense With Example

 I was singing:


The past continuous tense is one of the important tense in English. We use this past continuous tense to say what we were in the middle of doing at a particular moment in the past.


In this article or in this lesson we will cover the structure and the use of the past continuous tense, by a quiz to check your understanding level:


How we make the Past Continuous Tense?

The structure of this tense:

subject + auxiliary verb (Helping verb) BE + main verb
present participle
was were  

base + ing


For negative sentences in this tense, we add/put not between the auxiliary/helping  verb and main verb. For question sentences, we need just to exchange the subject and auxiliary verb. check these examples with the past continuous tense:


Sentence  subject auxiliary / Helping verb main verb
+ I was watching movie.
+ You were running fast.
He, she, it was not helping Saba.
We were not kidding.
? Were you being silly?
? Were they playing cricket?

How we use the Past Continuous Tense?


This tense expresses action at a particular moment but in the past. The action or state started before that moment but has not finished at that moment. For example, yesterday I watched a drama on TV. The drama started at 8pm and finished at 8:30pm.


At 8pm yesterday, I was watching movie.
past present future
At 8pm, I was in the middle of watching movie.


When we use this tense, our listener our opposite  knows or understands what time we are talking about. please check these examples:


  • I was running at 10pm last
  • They were not playing cricket at 9am this
  • What were you doing at 9pm yesterday?
  • What were you doing when he came?
  • Saba was taking tea when I telephoned
  • We were having breakfast when it started to
  • Fahad went home early because it was Raining.


Some verbs can not be used in continuous or progressive tenses.


We often use this tense to “set the scene” in the stories. We use it to set the background situation at the moment when the action begins/start. Often we start the story with the past continuous tense and then moves into the simple past tense. Here is the example look it:


  • Jake  was driving through town. It was snowing. The wind was blowing and No one  was walking in the streets. Suddenly, Jake saw the killer in a telephone box…”


Past Continuous Tense And Simple Past Tense

We often use this tense with the simple past. We use this tense to express a long action or state. And we use the simple past tense to express a short action  or state that have happens in the middle of the long action. And also we can join the two ideas with when or while.


In the Below example, we have two actions:


  1. The long action (watching Movie), expressed with past continuous tense.
  2. The short action (telephoned), expressed with simple past tense


past present future
The long action.
I was watching Movie at 9pm.



You telephoned at 9pm.

Short action.

We can join these two actions with when:


  • I was watching movie when you telephoned me



(Notice one thing “when you telephoned” is also a way of defining the time [9pm].) Which we use:

  • when + is for short action (simple past tense)
  • while + is for long action (past continuous tense) There are 4 basic combinations:
he was walking past the bus when it exploded.
When the bus exploded He was walking past it.
The bus exploded while he was walking past it.
While he was walking past the bus it exploded.


Note: The long action and the short action are relative.


  • “Watching Movie” took a few “Telephoned” took a few seconds.
  • “Walking past the Bus or car” took a few “Exploded” took a few milliseconds.
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