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Unit 3.2

Past Continuous Affirmative

Verbs

The past continuous (or progressive) is the tense used to express situations that occurred in the past and were in progress at any moment during a period of time.

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

The past continuous, in its affirmative form, has this structure:
Subject + was/were + [verb + -ing] + …

  • Was/were: past simple of the verb to be.
SUBJECTAUXILIARY VERBPRESENT PARTICIPLE
Iwasworking
Youwereworking
He/She/Itwasworking
We/You/Theywereworking
  1. Longer background action interrupted by a shorter one
    • I was running in the park when you sent me that message.
    • She was practising sport when I called her.
    • They were watching TV when she got back from work.
  2. Event occurring at an exact time in the past
    • It was 9 o’ clock when I was running in the park.
    • I called her at 11:45 and she was practising sport.
    • She returned from work at 7 o’ clock and they were still watching TV.
  3. Uninterrupted action in progress for a while
    • I was running.
    • He was crossing the road.
    • We were watching TV during our break.
  4. Length of period of time in the past
    • I was working in the bakery last summer.
    • She was practising sports every day last year.
    • They were watching TV all day when they were young.
  5. Past simultaneous actions
    • I was running while she was walking.
    • She was practising sport while her mother was cooking.
    • We were talking while the kids were watching TV.
  6. Sequence of actions which occurred in the past
    • I went to the park, the kids were playing on the grass, their parents were sitting on the fence and some teenagers were running.
    • She went home and her mother was working on the laptop, her father was watching tv and her sister was studying.
    • We went to the doctor today and while waiting, some patients were reading magazines, some were talking on the phone and the secretary was typing on the computer.
  7. Repeated or annoying action (with always)
    • I was always going to class late.
    • She was practising sports every day for years to become a good athlete.
    • They were always watching TV on high volume late at night.

We use the past continuous tense, in its affirmative form, to confirm 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 at 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 was in progress for a while (event in progress in the past during an extended period of time);
  4. The length of time period in the past (event in progress in the past during an extended period of time);
  5. Past simultaneous actions (two events happened at the same time);
  6. Sequence of actions which occurred in the past (usually used to describe a situation in which different events were 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, in the affirmative form, to confirm situations that occurred in the past and were in progress at every moment during a period of time.

The structure is:
Subject + was/were + [verb + -ing] + …

For example:
— “I was playing football when the phone rang.” = We use the past continuous to express a situation in progress considered as a background action, interrupted by a sudden action (expressed in the past simple).
♦ “I played football.” = We use the past simple to express the idea of an action that started and concluded in the past.

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

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