Past continuous

Past continuous tense is used first of all for the description of an action which lasted for some time in the past. Of course, there are many details of using this tense, but we'll talk about them a little later, first we need to figure out how it is formed.

In the affirmative sentences past continuous has the following form:

Auxiliary verb to be in the form of Past simple + semantic verb with the ending -ing

Was / were + v-ing

I was reading.

You were reading.

She was reading.

To ask a question in past continuous, the verb to be is imposed before the subject (a person or an object that performs an action):

Was I reading?

Were you reading?

In negative sentences you must add the particle not to the verb to be:

I was not (wasn’t) reading.

You were not (weren’t) reading.


We now turn to past continuous use cases:

1. When it comes to actions that took place over time in the past. At the same time, we do not say when the action began and ended, but simply indicate a specific time:

Yesterday evening we were having dinner at our parent’s. (We do not know when the action began or ended, just know the length of time when it happened)


2. To create an atmosphere, a description of the environment, etc. at the beginning of our story, before moving on to the main events narration:

One quiet spring morning I was strolling down a beautiful walkway. The sun was shining, and the birds were singing around me.


3. Often past continuous interacts with past simple in one sentence: when a long action in the past (past continuous) was interrupted by a “one-off” action (past simple). Or "one-time action" happened on the background of a long one:

I was walking down the street when I saw an old friend.

4. Also past continuous can be used to describe two or more lasting actions occurring at the same time in the past:

He was listening to the music while he was driving to work.

For past continuous tense, there are some marker words: while, when, as, all morning / day / evening, etc.


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