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Unit 3.2

Past Continuous Negative

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 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;
  • 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…
SUBJECTAUXILIARY VERB + NOTPRESENT PARTICIPLE
Iwas notworking
Youwere notworking
He/She/Itwas notworking
We/You/Theywere notworking
  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 practising sport when I called her.
    • They weren’t watching TV when she got back from work.
  2. Event occurring at an exact time in the past
    • I wasn’t running in the park at 9 o’clock.
    • She wasn’t practising 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 last summer.
    • She wasn’t practising sport every day last year.
    • They weren’t watching TV all day when they were young.
  5. Past simultaneous actions
    • I wasn’t running while she was walking.
    • She wasn’t practising sport while her mother was cooking.
    • We weren’t talking while the kids were watching TV.
  6. Sequence of actions which 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 to class late.
    • She wasn’t practising 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, in its negative form, to deny 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 negative form, to deny situations that occurred in the past and were in progress at every moment during a period of time.

The structure is:
Subject + was/were + not + [verb + -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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