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Past Continuous - Rules and exercises for intermediate level

Friday, 04 September 2009
Example of past continuous: I wasn't working
Example of past continuous: I wasn't working This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license

An overview of the past continuous tense with a clear explanation and exercises. This online lesson in English grammar is designed for intermediate level students

Form of past continuous

The past continuous is used to express and action or a state that was happening at the time of the speaking. The action was not finished.

Past continuous: positive and negative



She/ He/ It









Past continuous: question

What was



She/ He/ It





Past continuous: be careful!

1. All continuous verbs forms are composed of the auxiliary verb 'be' plus the gerund (-ing ) of the main verb.
2. We use the continuous only for verbs which describe actions.
3. Note that for questions is not necessary to use 'do' because there is already an auxiliary verb 'be'.

Uses of the past continuous

The past continuous is used:

1) for describing the situation or background to a story, or actions in progress.

  • The band was playing and the waiters were serving the VIP's who where sitting at their tables.

2) to express activity in progress before and after a particular time in the past.

  • At 6 o'clock yesterday evening they were having a meeting at the Hilton hotel.

3) to express an incomplete activity in the past.

  • While on my train journey to Rome I was reading an interesting book about the cosmos. (I didn't finish the book.)

4) to express an action done repeatedly.

  • He was banging on the door to wake me up.

5) to show duration and is often used with other tenses. (past simple and past continuous)

  • She was writing a letter when her mother entered the room.
  • While they were walking up the mountain there was a tremendous wind blowing.
  • When he was driving to work he had an accident.
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Last modified on Sunday, 05 February 2017 22:17

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