Unit 3.2

Past Continuous Negative

Introduction

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.

Form

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…

Example

  • 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. 

Use

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).

Summary

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.

Exercises