Unit 3.2

Past Continuous Interrogative

Introduction

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

When expressed in its interrogative form, it is used to ask questions about things that were happening in a past period of time.

Form

The past continuous, in its interrogative form, has this structure:
Was/Were + subject + [verb + -ing] + …?

  • Was/were: past simple of the verb to be.
Was/Were Subject Verb + -ing Question
Mark
Was I working ?
Were you working ?
Was he/she/it working ?
Were we/you/they working ?

Example

  • Was she reading a book when I called her?
  • Were they still watching TV when she returned from work at 7 o’clock?
  • Was he crossing the road?
  • Was she practising sport every day last year to prepare for the race?
  • Were they talking while the kids were playing?
  • Was her mother working on the laptop, her father watching TV and her sister studying when she went home?
  • Was I always going late to class?

Use

We use past continuous tense, in its interrogative form, to ask:

  • a longer background action interrupted by an unexpected shorter one (something suddenly happens while another longer event was already in progress);
  • 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);
  • an uninterrupted action which was in progress for a while (event in progress in the past during an extended period of time);
  • the length of time period in the past (event in progress in the past during an extended period of time);
  • past simultaneous actions (two events happened at the same time);
  • sequence of actions which occurred in the past (usually used to describe a situation in which different events were happening at the same time);
  • repeated or annoying action (with always or similar expressions that suggest the idea of a repeated event).

Summary

We use the past continuous, in the interrogative form, to ask for situations that occurred in the past and were in progress at every moment during a period of time.

When we use past continuous in its interrogative form, we start with was or were followed by the subject and the verb with -ing (the sentence ends with a question mark).

For example:
— “Was I playing football when the phone rang?” = We use past continuous to ask if something was interrupted when the phone rang.
♦ “Did I play football?” = We use past simple to ask about an action which 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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