Past Continuous – Negative

Verbs

The Past Continuous or Progressive is the tense used to talk about situations that occurred in the past and were in progress at every moment during a period of time.

When expressed in its Negative form, the verb denies that something was happening in a past period of time.

The Past Continuous or Progressive of the verb to work in its Negative form has this structure:
Subject + past simple of the verb to be + not + [verb + -ing].

SUBJECT AUXILIARY VERB NEGATION PRESENT PARTICIPLE SHORT FORM
I was not working wasn’t
You were not working weren’t
He was not working wasn’t
She was not working wasn’t
It was not working wasn’t
We were not working weren’t
You were not working weren’t
They were not working weren’t
  1. Longer background action interrupted by a shorter one
    • I wasn’t running in the park when you sent me that message.
    • She wasn’t practicing sport when I called her.
    • They weren’t watching TV when she got back from work.
  2. Event occurring in an exact time in the past
    • I wasn’t running in the park at 9 o’clock.
    • She wasn’t practicing sport when I called her at 11:45.
    • They weren’t watching TV when she returned from work at 7 o’ clock.
  3. Uninterrupted action in progress for a while
    • I wasn’t running.
    • He wasn’t crossing the road.
    • We weren’t watching TV during our break.
  4. Length of time period in the past
    • I wasn’t working in the bakery on the opposite road last summer.
    • She wasn’t practicing sport every day last year to prepare for the race.
    • They weren’t watching TV all day when they were teenagers.
  5. Past simultaneous actions
    • I wasn’t running while she was walking.
    • She wasn’t practicing sport while her mother was cooking.
    • We weren’t talking while the kids were watching TV.
  6. Sequence of actions occurred in the past
    • I went to the park, the kids weren’t playing on the grass, their parents weren’t sitting on the fence and teenagers weren’t running.
    • She went home and her mother wasn’t working on the laptop, her father wasn’t watching tv and her sister wasn’t studying.
    • We went to the doctor today and while we were waiting at the doctor the other patients weren’t reading magazines, weren’t talking on the phone and the secretary wasn’t typing anything on the computer.
  7. Repeated or annoying action
    • I wasn’t going late to the class.
    • She wasn’t practicing sport everyday for years to become a good athlete.
    • They weren’t watching TV on high volume late at night.

We use the Past Continuous tense to talk about events or activities taking place in the past. We usually intend to show that they lasted for a long time.

Past Continuous is used in the following cases:

  1. A longer background action interrupted by an unexpected shorter one (something suddenly happens while another longer event was already in progress);
  2. An event that was occurring in an exact time in the past (expressing the date, hour or giving specific time information about an event in progress occurring at a past time);
  3. An uninterrupted action which is in progress for a while (event in progress in the past during an extended period of time);
  4. Length of time period in the past (event in progress in the past during an extended period of time);
  5. Past simultaneous actions (something happens at the same time with something else);
  6. Pequence of actions occurred in the past (usually used to describe a situation in which different events are happening at the same time);
  7. Repeated or annoying action (with always or similar expressions that suggest the idea of a repeated event).

We use the Past Continuous when we wish to talk about situations that occurred in the past and were in progress at every moment during a period of time. When used in its Negative form, something that was happening in a past period of time is denied.

The Past Continuous in its Negative form has this structure:
Subject + past simple of the verb to be + not + [verb  + -ing] (e.g. I was not playing).

For example:
— “I was not playing football when the phone rang.” = We use the Past Continuous to talk about an uninterrupted situation in progress for a while in the past.
> “I did not play football.” = In this case, using the Past Simple, the idea of an action not starting and concluding in the past is expressed.

Let’s revise this content within the [Form] section. Take a look at the [Example] section that shows its use within a context.