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Past Continuous Tense

FUNCTIONS OF THE PAST CONTINUOUS


The past continuous describes actions or events in a time before now, which began in the past
and is still going on at the time of speaking. In other words, it expresses an unfinished or
incomplete action in the past.
It is used:

Often, to describe the background in a story written in the past tense, e.g. "The sun was
shining and the birds were singing as the elephant came out of the jungle. The other
animals were relaxing in the shade of the trees, but the elephant moved very quickly.
She was looking for her baby, and she didn't notice the hunter who was watching her
through his binoculars. When the shot rang out, she was running towards the river..."

to describe an unfinished action that was interrupted by another event or action, e.g.
"I was having a beautiful dream when the alarm clock rang."

to express a change of mind: e.g. "I was going to spend the day at the beach but I've
decided to get my homework done instead."

with 'wonder', to make a very polite request: e.g. "I was wondering if you could baby-sit
for me tonight."

EXAMPLES

They were waiting for the bus when the accident happened.

Caroline was skiing when she broke her leg.

When we arrived he was having a bath.

When the fire started I was watching television.

Note: with verbs not normally used in the continuous form, the simple past is used.
FORMING THE PAST CONTINUOUS
The past continuous of any verb is composed of two parts : the past tense of the verb "to be"
(was/were), and the base of the main verb +ing.

Subject

was/were

base + ing

They

were

watching

was

reading

wasn't

reading

she

reading?

she

reading?

Affirmative
She
Negative
She
Interrogative
Was
Interrogative negative
Wasn't

Signal words tell you what tense you have to use. In the Past Progressive we often use a period
of time. A typical signal word is while. The Past Progressive is frequently used in sentences
together with the Simple Past.
while (In this part of the sentence we usually use Past Progressive.)
While we were watching TV, Andy was surfing the internet.
when (In this part of the sentence we usually use Simple Past. The Past Progressive is used in
the other part of the sentence.)
The ladies were talking when the accident happened.
Past Progressive - Spelling
Be careful with some words when adding -ing to the infinitive.
1) consonant after a short, stressed vowel at the end of the word
Double the consonant.

sit he was sitting


put - he was putting
If the consonant is not stressed, we do not double it:
benefit - benefiting (Here we stress the first 'e', not the 'i'.)
In British English we double one -l at the end of the word:
travel - travelling

2) one -e at the end of the word


Leave out the -e.
write he was writing
take he was taking
BUT:
double e: add -ing
see he was seeing

3) verbs ending in -ie


Change 'ie' to 'y'.
lie - he was lying

4) verbs ending in -c
Change 'c' to 'ck'.
picnic - he was picnicking
Put the verbs into the correct form (past progressive).
1. When I phoned my friends, they (play)

2. Yesterday at six I (prepare)

monopoly.

dinner.

3. The kids (play)

in the garden when it suddenly began to rain.

4. I (practice)

the guitar when he came home.

5. We (not / cycle)

all day.

6. While Alan (work)

in his room, his friends (swim)

in the

pool.
7. I tried to tell them the truth but they (not / listen )

8. What (you / do)

yesterday?

9. Most of the time we (sit)

10. I (listen)

in the park.

to the radio while my sister (watch)

11. When I arrived, They (play)

12. We (study)

TV.

cards.

English yesterday at 4:00 pm .

Write correct sentences:


Yesterday at 6 pm your family were doing different things. Write positive sentences in past
progressive.

1. My mother / read / a novel

2. My father / watch / a movie

3. My elder sister / writing / in her diary

4. My two brothers / listen / to the radio

5. My little sister and I / not / watch / a movie

6. We / talk / about school

Make the positive or negative past continuous

1) Julie

(sleep) at three o'clock..

Check

Show Answ er

2) You

(study) at three o'clock..

Check

Show Answ er

3) Luke

(read) at three oclock..

Check

Show Answ er

4) I

(work) at three oclock..

Check

Show Answ er

5) They

(eat) chocolate at three oclock..

Check

Show Answ er

6) John

(play) tennis at three oclock..

Check

Show Answ er

7) We

(watch) TV at three oclock..

Check

Show Answ er

8) He

(use) the internet at three oclock..

Check

Show Answ er

9) You

(cook) lunch at three oclock..

Check

Show Answ er

10) We

(travel) to London at three oclock..

Check

Show Answ er

11) Mrs Brown

(not/walk) in the garden when

the murder happened..

Check

Show Answ er

12) Mr Black

(not/work) in his study when the

murder happened..

Check

Show Answ er

13) Miss Jones

(not/talk) to Mr. White when

Check

the murder happened..

Show Answ er

14) You

Check

(not/play) cards when the murder

happened..
15) Dr Ford

Show Answ er

(not/read) in his room when the

murder happened..

Check

Show Answ er

16) Mr. and Mrs. Green

(not/eat) in the dining

Check

room when the murder happened..

Show Answ er

17) Mr Blue

Check

(not/drink) coffee in the library

when the murder happened..

Show Answ er

18) The maid

Check

the murder happened..

(not/clean) the bedrooms when

Show Answ er

19) I

(not/listen) to music when the murder

happened..
20) The dogs

Check

Show Answ er

(not/play) outside when the

murder happened..

Check

Show Answ er

Write down the ing form of the following words. Mind the exceptions in spelling.
1.

live

2.

run

3.

give

4.

swim

5.

lie

6.

sit

7.

travel
Decide whether to use 'was' or 'were'.

1.

Boris

learning English.

2.

They

swimming in the lake.

3.

Your father

4.

5.

You

6.

My friends

7.

It

8.

The dog

9.

The children

10.

Anne and Maureen

repairing the car.


reading a magazine.
packing your bag.
watching the match on TV.
raining.
barking.
brushing their teeth.
singing a song.

Yesterday at 3 pm the following people were in the middle of an action.


Write positive sentences in past progressive.
1.

you / play / cards

2.

Alice / walk / around the lake

3.

Caron / listen / to the radio

4.

we / read / a book about Australia

5.

Linda / look for / her ring

6.

Fiona and Sam / visit / the castle

7.

Ben / wash / the car

8.

Kim and I / wait / in the park

9.

My sister / feed / the birds

10.

Greg and Phil / count / their money


Somebody believes that yesterday at 3 pm the following people were in the middle of an
action. That cannot be, however, as yesterday at 3 pm these people were not doing those
things.
Write negative sentences in past progressive.

1.

Sarah and Luke / not / work

2.

Mister Miller / not / teach / chemistry

3.

Barry / not / drive / a lorry

4.

Mandy / not / have / lunch

5.

Albert / not / play / tennis

6.

Taylor and Bob / not / cycle / home

7.

Annie / not / clean / the table

8.

Benjamin / not / write / an e-mail

9.

Jane / not / exercise / in the gym

10.

Robert / not / buy / flowers


You want to know whether the following people were in the middle of an action at a certain
time in the past.
Write questions in past progressive.

1.

Rachel / feed / the cat

2.

the children / paint / a picture

3.

Clark / repair / his computer

4.

Hazel / swim / in the pool

5.

Lucas / have / a shower

6.

Jason and Aron / run / down the street

7.

Betty / do / her homework

8.

Cindy and James / make / dinner

9.

Rebecca / watch / Star Trek

10.

Anita and Linda / sit / in the kitchen


Ask for the information in the bold part of the sentence.

1.

Henry was living in London last year.

2.

Anita was working at a restaurant last week.

3.

Ricky was waiting for Holly.

4.

Sarah was singing a song.

5.

Joe was reading a book.

6.

At six o'clock, Myriam and her family were having dinner.

7.

Bob was walking home because his car had a flat tire.

8.

At half past seven, Mister Logan was driving home.

9.

The children were playing in the sandbox.

10.

Claire was visiting her best friend.


Put the verbs into the correct form (past progressive).

1.

When I phoned my friends, they (play)

monopoly.
w ere playing

2.

Yesterday at six I (prepare)

dinner.

3.

The kids (play)

4.

I (practise)

5.

We (not / cycle)

6.

While Aaron (work)

in the garden when it suddenly began to rain.


the guitar when he came home.
all day.
in his room, his friends (swim)

in the

pool.
7.

I tried to tell them the truth but they (listen / not)

8.

What (you / do)

9.

Most of the time we (sit)

yesterday?
in the park.

Write the ing form of the verbs.


1.

live

2.

stay

3.

run

4.

win

5.

cycle
Complete the table in past progressive.
positive

negative

It was raining.

They were not playing.

question

Was I listening?

Caron was not eating.

You were singing.


Was or Were?
1.

We

dancing.

2.

The dog

3.

The printer

printing out a photograph.

4.

The pupils

writing a test.

5.

Sue and Gareth

barking.

walking up the hill.

Write sentences in past progressive.


1.

he / the car / wash

2.

she / home / go

3.

they / not / the match / watch

4.

you / in the shop / work

5.

I / not / a magazine / read


Write questions in past progressive.

1.

she / on a chair / sit

2.

you / your bag / pack

3.

his head / ache

4.

we / tea / drink

5.

you / the bike / repair


Ask for the information in the bold part of the sentence.

1.

Jamie was doing a language course in London.

2.

Andrew was carrying a heavy box.

3.

The teacher was testing our English.

4.

At six o'clock, we were having dinner.

5.

Sally was hurrying to school because she was late.


Write the ing form of the following verbs.

1.

phone

2.

fly

3.

swim

4.

chat

5.

die
Complete the table in past progressive.
positive

negative

He was shouting.

They were not talking.

question

Were you reading?

Brad was not waiting.

Diana was laughing.


Was or Were?
1.

2.

You

3.

The birds

4.

The teacher

5.

The water

having dinner.
rushing down the street.
sitting in the tree.
pointing to the board.
dripping on the floor.

Write sentences in past progressive.


1.

We / feed / the birds

2.

Jenny / ride / a horse

3.

my parents / not / eating / at a restaurant

4.

James and Phil / build / a tree house

5.

their mother / not / cook / dinner


Write questions in past progressive.

1.

Jane / tidy / her room

2.

Brendan / drive / a lorry

3.

Sue and Jane / sell / fruits

4.

the pupils / write / a test

5.

your little sister / cry


Ask for the information in the bold part of the sentence.

1.

Misses Bush was correcting our tests.

2.

An hour ago, Carol was talking on the phone.

3.

Avril was painting the kitchen.

4.

Katie was sitting in the living room.

5.

The children were running around noisily.


Write the ing form of the following verbs.

1.

share

2.

tidy

3.

shut

4.

dial

5.

lie
Complete the table in past progressive.
positive

negative

question

They were not chatting.

Was the couple kissing?

They were complaining.

It was not getting dark.

Bob was studying.


Was or Were?
1.

The pirates

2.

We

3.

The candle

4.

The cat

5.

The mice

fighting for the treasure.


discussing the problem.
burning.
chasing the mice.
running away from the cat.

Write sentences in past progressive.


1.

the snowman / melt / in the sun

2.

we / explore / a new territory

3.

the secretary / print out / a document

4.

the girls / not / concentrate / on the task

5.

Garth / not / practise / on the piano


Write questions in past progressive.

1.

Jill / dance

2.

your cousins / swim / in the lake

3.

the student / answer / a question

4.

William / play / the guitar

5.

Janet / sit / on the bench


Ask for the information in the bold part of the sentence.

1.

At a quarter past six, Phil was translating the document.

2.

Sheila was waiting in the park.

3.

The pupils were talking about the United States.

4.

The boss was dictating a letter.

5.

Barbara was looking for her necklace.


Put the verbs into the correct tense (Simple Past or Past Progressive).

1.

While Tom (read)

2.

Marvin (come)
and (check)

3.

The thief (sneak)


and (leave)

4.

Nobody (listen)

5.

While we (do)

, Amely (watch)

a documentary on TV.

home, (switch)

on the computer

his emails.
into the house, (steal)

the jewels

without a trace.
while the teacher (explain)
a sight-seeing tour, our friends (lie)

beach.
6.

He (wake)

up and (look)

at his watch.

Put the verbs into the correct tense (Simple Past or Past Progressive).

the tenses.
on the

1.

The receptionist (welcome)

the guests and (ask)

fill in the form.


2.
The car (break)

down and we (have)

3.

The boys (swim)

while the girls (sunbathe)

4.

My father (come)

in, (look)

and (tell)
5.

them to

to walk home.
.
around

me to tidy up my room.

As long as one group (prepare)

wood for their campfire.


6.
While the parents (have)

dinner, the others (collect)

breakfast, their children (run)

about.
7.

Martha (turn)

off the lights and (go)

to bed.

Put the verbs into the correct tense (Simple Past or Past Progressive).
1.

We (wait)

the corner.
2.
I (cycle)

for Jane, when suddenly Louis (come)

through the park, when I (hear)

3.

He (pass)

4.

I (fall)

5.

When Mike and Jane (paint)

over the paint pot.


6.
Tom (break)
7.

The phone (ring)

around

a strange noise.

her a message when the teacher (look / not)


asleep while I (watch)

TV last night.

the walls, their dog (knock)

his leg when he (play)


when I (sit)

frisbee.
on the toilet.

Put the verbs into the correct tense (Simple Past or Past Progressive).

1.

I (jog)

2.

Robert (fall)

3.

Archimedes (discover)
he (take)

4.

in the park, when two squirrels (cross)


off the ladder when he (pick)

my way.
cherries.

the theory of buoyancy while

a bath.

When we (travel)

around Ireland, we (meet)

nice people.
5.
While she (speak)

on the phone, the milk (boil)

6.

When I (leave)

the house this morning, the sun (shine)

7.

Caroline (burn)

her hand when she (iron)

some very

over.
.
her clothes.

Put the verbs into the correct tense (Simple Past or Past Progressive).
1.

Two days ago, a murder (happen)

2.

Yesterday, Sherlock Holmes (arrive)

3.

He (ask)

4.

What (do / you)

5.

I (watch)

6.

(be)

7.

Yes, I (be)

8.

(hear / you)

in Market Street at about seven pm.


at the crime scene to investigate.

one of the tenants in the house.


yesterday at seven?
a football match on TV.
you alone?
.
anything suspicious?

9.

Yes, about seven o'clock, two people (argue)


football match (be)

in the hallway. But the

so interesting. So I just (turn)

then (hear / not)

up the telly and

anything anymore.

Put the verbs into the correct tense (Simple Past or Past Progressive).
1.

A: What (do / you)

2.

B: I (sit)

3.

A: I (drive)

yesterday at 8 pm?
in the pub with Sam. Why?
to the sports centre at that time to play squash with a few

friends. As we (be)

only three players, I (try)

you would like to come as well. But I (reach / not)


4.

B: Why (ring / not / you)

5.

A: I actually (want)
I (dial)

to ring you to ask if


you at home.

my mobile?
to ring your mobile, but by accident

William's number. He (do / not)

moment and really (like)

anything special at that

the idea of playing squash with us.

Put the verbs into the correct tense (simple past or past progressive).
1.

When I (do)

the washing-up, I (break)


w as doing

2.

While Tom (play)

a plate.
broke

the piano, his mother (do)

the washing-

up.
3.

He (drink)

4.

I (have)

some juice and then he (eat)

a few chips.

dinner when I suddenly (hear)

a loud bang.

5.

When my father (work)

by to see him.
6.
She (go)
and (begin)
7.

When it (start)

8.

When Jane (do)

in the garden, an old friend (pass)

to school, (take)
to learn.
to rain, our dog (want)

to come inside.

a language course in Ireland, she (visit)

Blarney Castle.
9.
When I (be)
10.

out her textbook

on my way home, I (see)

I (not / understand)

an accident.

what they (talk)

about.

Put the verbs into the correct tense (Simple Past or Past Progressive).
1.

When I (get)

2.

It (is)

3.

So I (decide)

4.

I (go)

5.

While I (cycle)

up yesterday, the sun (shine)

a beautiful morning.
to cycle around a little.
to the shed and (take)

their gardens.
6.
One man (mow)

out my bike.

past some villages, I (see)

some people in

the grass while his wife (pick)

strawberries.
7.
After one hour of cycling in sunshine, a big fat raincloud
suddenly (appear)
and it (start)
to rain.
8.

Luckily, a farmer (notice)

9.

While it (rain)

me and (tell)
outside, I (sit)

me to come in.
in the farmer's house.

10.

After a while, the sun (come)

11.

I (thank)

out again.

the farmer for his hospitality and (move)

on.