Past Continuous Tense

We use past continuous to describe an action that was happening at a certain moment and we don’t know if the action is finished or not. To describe all this type of actions we have to use the past tense forms of the verb “to be” was or were or the negative forms wasn’t or weren’t and the verb that follows them has to be in the the “ing” form.

  • My brother was watching TV when I left this morning. 
  • What was your brother doing when you left this morning? 
  • He was watching TV. 
  • My mother was cooking when you called. 
  • What was your mother doing when I called? 
  • My mother was cooking. 

We can illustrate the grammatical structure better in the chart below.

Subject  + Was or Were  +Verb in ING  +Complement +Expression of past time
 coffee at Starbucks
 this morning. 
 in your room
 last night. 
 on the phone
 for two hours. 
 her homework
 two minutes ago. 
 a lot
 last night. 
 at the bar
 last week. 
 at the libray
 the other day. 
  • They were studying for the test last Saturday. 
  • Were they studying for the test last Saturday? 
Affirmative Answer:
  • Yes, they were studying for the test last Saturday. 
Negative Answer:
  • No, they weren’t studying for the test last Saturday. 
  • It was raining when we came back from the party. 
  • Was it raining when you came back from the party? 
Affirmative Answer:
  • Yes, it was raining when we came back from the party. 
Negative Answer:
  • No, it wasn’t raining when we came back from the party. 

Typical questions in this tense are:

  • What were you _________?
  • Where were you ________?
  • Where were you going last night? 
  • What were you doing yesterday at the library? 

We can also use connectors to describe two actions that were happening at the same time. They are: and, while, when, but not.

  • She was studying and memorizing the book at the same time. 
  • They were dancing while the others were sleeping. 
  • We were playing but not making noise. 
  • Peter was writing while his father was listening to music. 
  • John was sleeping when the accident happened.