Past Continuous

  • subject + was/were + verb + -ing
    Example: He was watching TV.
  • subject + was/were not + verb + -ing
    Example: You weren't watching TV.
  • was/were + subject + verb + -ing?
    Example: Were we watching TV.

The principal uses of the present continuous are listed below.

  • To set the "background scene" to an event or action. We use the past continuous to describe the background scene and the past simple to describe the event or action:
    • I saw him at 8 o'clock on Monday morning while he was waiting for the school bus.
    • I was shopping in a supermarket when I noticed a strange-looking man.
Past Simple
    • We may have more than one background scene happening concurrently:
    • I was lying on my bed and listening to one of my favorite songs.
  • To emphasize activities which continued for some time but whose exact limits are not known and are not important. Notice the important difference between these two sentences:
    • For a while last year I was playing football for my local team and teaching English in the local elementary schools. (It doesn't indicate whether the actions were completed or not, or whether they happened concurrently)
    • Last year I played football for my local team and taught English in the local elementary schools. (It indicates that all of the actions are now complete, and probabley happened in that order)
    • Note: state verbs cannot be used in any continuous tense.

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