Unit 3.2

Past Continuous Negative


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 negative form, the verb denies that something was happening in a past period of time.


The past continuous, in its negative form, has this structure:
Subject + was/were + not + [verb + -ing] + …

  • Was/were: past simple of the verb to be
Subject was/were + not Verb + -ing
I was not working
You were not working
He/She/It was not working
We/You/They were not working

Short form of the negative form is the same as the short form of to be in the past simple: I wasn’t – you weren’t – he wasn’t…


  • I wasn’t studying when you called me.
  • When they arrived at 11 o’clock we were listening to music.
  • She wasn’t working.
  • I wasn’t living here at that time.  
  • I wasn’t sleeping while she was working.
  • When they arrived I wasn’t cleaning the house, my children weren’t playing and my sister wasn’t making a phone call.
  • They weren’t always asking me questions. 


We use past continuous tense, in its negative form, to deny:

  • 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).


We use the past continuous, in the negative form, to deny 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 negative form, we start with the subject, followed by was not or were not and the verb with -ing.

For example:
— “I was not playing football when the phone rang.” = We use past continuous to express an action that didn’t take place when another one occurred.
♦ “I did not play football.” = We use past simple to express the idea of an action that didn’t happen 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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