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Past continuous
Affirmative, negative and interrogative forms

Quiroga, A. (2011) Past progressive movie. [Video] Taken from http://bit.ly/2pDjIXK Consulted on 12 May, 2017

Did you notice anything in particular about the completion of the verbs? What about the sentence structure? What verbs make it up? As you observed in the video, the past continuous expresses past actions that began at a particular time and continue to take place.

It is important to understand the past continuous because that way you will have effective communication skills referring to progress actions that occurred before now. In doing so, you need to know how to conjugate this tense properly. On the other hand, the correct use of past continuous can help you read, write, listen and speak, with people more clearly and effectively.

In this lesson, you will learn the continuous time of the past: what it consists of, its uses, structure to write its affirmative, negative and interrogative forms, some spelling tips and examples of its use in sentences that express situations of daily life.


At the end of this topic you will:

Use past continuous to express past habitual actions that happened at a certain period of time in the past, through the revision of affirmative, negative and interrogative forms.

The continuous past is a verbal time similar to the gerund in Spanish and that allows to express actions of the past that happened in a certain moment.

To help you learn usage and rules in the continuous past, review the following image. Place the cursor on the titles so that the information is displayed.

To form the PAST CONTINUOUS TENSE, you will need two elements:

the verb be in past: was or were


the main verb ending ing

In affirmative statements, you need to use:

Was for the pronouns I, he, she and it.

Were for the pronouns you, we and they


the main verb with -ing


She was running this morning.

We were studying for an English exam yesterday morning.

In negative statements, you need to use:

Was not or the contraction wasn’t for the pronouns I, he, she and it.

Were not or the contraction weren’t for the pronouns you, we and they


the main verb with -ing


She wasn’t running this morning.

We weren’t studying for an English exam yesterday morning.

In questions, you need to change the order (in affirmative or negative form). Use:

Was (or wasn’t) before the pronouns I, he, she and it.

Were (or weren’t) before for you, we and they


the main verb with -ing


Was she running this morning?

Were we studying for an English exam yesterday morning?

Tip: ending rules ing

Look at this image, in it you will observe the rules to change the endings terminations of the verbs.

Spelling changes Verb-ing

Verbs ending with one 'e'

('e' sound is) silent

  • belive
  • have
  • live
  • take
  • move

Drop - e add 'ing'

  • beliving
  • having
  • living
  • taking
  • moving

Short one-syllable verbs ending with CVC

  • sit
  • get
  • plan
  • run
  • stop

Double final consonant and add -ing

  • sitting
  • getting
  • planning
  • running
  • stopping

Two or more syllable verbs with CVC

  • begin
  • forget
  • regret
  • admit
  • upset

Double final consonant if last syllable is stressed

  • beginning
  • forgetting
  • regretting
  • admitting
  • upsetting

Verbs ending in -ie

('e' sound is) silent

  • die
  • lie
  • tie

Change -ie to -y Add -ing

  • dying
  • lying
  • tying

To end…

Now read the following examples. They will help you to understand past continuous better.


Activity 1

Reading and understanding details

As we have seen, the past continuous helps to set the scene or to emphasize the progress of an action at a special time in the past.

  • What do you usually do on weekends?
  • Do you prefer going outside or staying at home?
  • Do you like dancing?

Let’s read the following text about John and Glenda, how are the places described? and what activities were they doing that night?

Read the text A Wonderful Afternoon, once you have finished, click on Start to answer the exercise. You can only do the exercise once.


Clker Free Vector Images (2012) Bailarines, bailando, pareja de baile, bailando par. [Photo] Taken from : http://bit.ly/2qogIf9. Consulted on 28 April, 2017

A Wonderful Afternoon

Last Saturday John and Glenda didn't meet their friends. At that time, they were usually playing at the sport club but that weekend they stayed home. It was Johns’ birthday, a special day to celebrate. They both were deciding what to do during the afternoon. Glenda wanted to go out but John’s car was at the service. It was a sunny afternoon. She walked by the window. A family was walking with their kids. A boy was taking his dog for a walk and the birds were singing.

Glenda was going to bake a cake but she remembered he disliked cakes. It started to rain and it was cold too. Glenda was preparing some delicious biscuits and chocolate at 4:30. After that, John made popcorn and both went into the living room, sat and began a movie. They were watching a really funny movie.

They laughed and enjoyed it.

At 6:00 John and Glenda started to play cards. They were playing for about an hour. John played some music and they both started to dance at 7:00. They were dancing their favorite rock music.

Glenda was glad. It was long ago they didn’t dance. John looked out at the window. It was still raining but it seemed a beautiful and peaceful night. He was happy they stayed home that night.

At 8:00 Glenda connected the TV to run a karaoke contest. John and Glenda loved it. They were singing old and new songs. John sang songs they both listened when they got married. Suddenly, the doorbell rang. John opened the door. They were their friends form the club. They brought … and all together were … for hours.


Activity 2

A day in Rita’s life

As we have studied in the content, there are daily life activities that begin at some time in the past, which we repeat in a constant way. To express them coherently, it is important to do so in the continuous past.

  • Do you study or work?
  • Are your daily activities always the same?
  • What were you doing last Monday?

Listen to the following audio:

A day in Rita’s life

It describes what Rita did last week. Listen carefully and do the activities.


Marin, R. (2016) Pareja, calle, cruzar, estilo de vida, pareja de moda. [Photo] Taken from http://bit.ly/2rYFXnS Consulted on 12 May, 2017


Activity 4

My last vacation

De viaje

Katyveldhorst (2014) De viaje, equipaje, viaje, aeropuerto, vacaciones. [Photo] Taken from http://bit.ly/2qs6ucg. Consulted on 12 May, 2017

  • Where do you usually go on vacation?
  • What was the vacation that you enjoy the most?

As we have reviewed in the topic, the past continuous allows us to express activities that began at a particular time in the past, such as vacations.

In this activity, you are going to write some paragraphs to describe a vacation you liked (60 - 100 words). It can be something that really happened or you can create the story.

When you write the story, include:

  • Description of the place and people (set the scene). Example: One day last summer I was taking a week vacation in Acapulco; the sun was shining, the birds were singing, my sister was drinking.
  • Emphasize the progress of an action at a special time in the past. Example: I was swimming at six / from 7 to 8.
  • Refer to actions that were happening again and again. Example: We were dancing at the disco all night; my friend and I were running every morning last summer.

When you have finished, click on Checklist to read the main aspects your composition must contain. It is also important to read the example provided.


Activity 5

Yesterday was an unusual day

Like the description of your vacation, the past continuous will allow you to express activities that you carried out in your life and in specific moments.

Think about all the activities you did yesterday during the whole day or a specific day last week. Prepare it in a word document and after that record it in the free application vocaroo.com

Check the following link to listen to an example.

You will find a checklist and evaluate your performance in grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and fluency.

Remember to include the following aspects:

  • When / Where (time and place)
  • What (activities)
  • Who (people that were with you)
  • Why (reason you liked that day)

Listen to the example

De viaje

Aldridge, J. (2015) micrófono, masculina, artista, canción cantar, el. [Photo] Taken from http://bit.ly/2r6J1RX Consulted 12 May, 2017


Test yourself

Now that you know how to form the past continuous, and you have done some practice, it’s time to test yourself.


Basic references

  • Claire, A. & Wilson J. (2012) Speak Out Pre-Intermediate. United States: Pearson Education.
  • Oxeden, C., Latham-Koenig, C. & Seligson, P. (2008) American English File 2. United States: Oxford University Press
  • Saslow, J. & Ascher, A. (2011) Top Notch 2. United States: Pearson Longman. 2011.
  • Soarz, J. & Soarz, L. (2001) American Headway 2. United States: Oxford Univerity Press.


  • What is grammar. (2012). Past continuous tense. Retrieved on 03-15-17 from: http://bit.ly/2r7kMmv
  • Inglés total. (2010). Past continuous tense / Past progressive Grammar. Retrieved on 03-15-17 from: http://bit.ly/1Mygnud