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Unit 3.2

Past Continuous Interrogative

Verbs

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 make questions about things that were happening in a past period of time.

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

  • Was/were: past simple of the verb to be.
AUXILIARY VERBSUBJECTPRESENT PARTICIPLEQUESTION MARK
WasIworking?
Wereyouworking?
Washe/she/itworking?
Werewe/you/theyworking?
  1. Longer background action interrupted by a shorter one
    • Was I running in the park when you sent me that message?
    • Was she practising sport when I called her?
    • Were they watching TV when she got back from work?
  2. Event occurring in an exact time in the past
    • Was I running in the park at 9 o’clock?
    • Was she practising sport when I called her at 11:45?
    • Were they still watching TV when she returned from work at 7 o’clock?
  3. Uninterrupted action in progress for a while
    • Was I running?
    • Was he crossing the road?
    • Were we watching TV during our break?
  4. Length of time period in the past
    • Was I working in the bakery on the opposite road last summer?
    • Was she practising sport every day last year to prepare for the race?
    • Were they watching TV all day when they were teenagers?
  5. Past simultaneous actions
    • Was I running while she was walking?
    • Was she practising sport while her mother was cooking?
    • Were we talking while the kids were watching TV?
  6. Sequence of actions which occurred in the past
    • Were the kids playing on the grass, their parents sitting on the fence and teenagers running when you went to the park?
    • Was her mother working on the laptop, her father watching TV and her sister studying when she went home?
    • Were the patients reading magazines, talking on the phone and was the secretary typing anything on the computer while you were waiting at the doctor today?
  7. Repeated or annoying action
    • Was I always going late to class?
    • Was she practising sport everyday for years to become a good athlete?
    • Were they always watching TV on high volume late at night?

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

The structure is:
Was/were + subject + [verb + -ing] + …?

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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