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The Past Continuous Tense

Perfect English Grammar

The Past Continuous

(or past progressive tense)

How can we make the past continuous? Firstly, check that you know how to make the past simple with 'be' (subject + was / were). Then just add verb-ing.

Click here to download this explanation as a pdf.

Click here for practice on how to USE the past continuous.

Here's the positive form:

  • I was sleeping
  • you were working
  • he was coming
  • she was reading 'War and Peace'
  • it was raining
  • we were shopping
  • they were watching a film

Next, here's the negative - it's very easy, just add 'not':

  • I was not (wasn't) sleeping
  • you were not (weren't) working
  • he was not (wasn't) coming
  • she was not (wasn't) reading 'War and Peace'
  • it was not (wasn't) raining
  • we were not (weren't) shopping
  • they were not (weren't) watching a film

Here's an exercise about the positive and negative verb forms

And, just like the past simple with 'be', to make a 'yes / no' question, put 'was / were' in front of the subject:

  • Was I listening?
  • Were you working?
  • Was she working?
  • Was he living in Paris at the time?
  • Was it snowing when you arrived?
  • Were we eating?
  • Were they studying?

To make a 'wh' question (of course) put the question word at the beginning:

  • Why was I working?
  • Where were you living?
  • How was she travelling?
  • Where was he going?
  • Why was it snowing in the summer?
  • What were we eating?
  • Why were they studying?

Here's an exercise about past continuous questions (both 'yes/no' and 'wh')

Mixed exercise 1 (includes all positive, negative and question forms)

Mixed exercise 2 (includes all positive, negative and question forms)