English Daily Workout: Past Continuous

Past Continuous

  2. The past continuous
         a. Use
         b. Formation
         c. Questions and negative statements







 
 
 
2. The past continuous

a. Use
The Past Continuous tense is used to express continuous, ongoing actions which took place in the past. In the following examples, the verbs in the Past Continuous tense are underlined.
e.g. He was traveling in Europe last summer.
      They were playing tennis yesterday afternoon.

The Past Continuous tense is frequently used to refer to an ongoing action which was taking place when something else occurred in the past.
e.g. I was washing the dishes when the telephone rang.
      We were entertaining friends when the parcel arrived.

In the first example, the use of the Past Continuous tense indicates that the action of washing the dishes was taking place at the time when the telephone rang. In the second example, the use of the Past Continuous tense indicates that the action of entertaining friends was taking place at the time when the parcel arrived.

b. Formation
The Past Continuous tense is formed from the Simple Past of the auxiliary to be, followed by the present participle of the verb. For example, the Past Continuous of the verb to work is conjugated as follows:



I was working
you were working
he was working
she was working
it was working
we were working
they were working



c. Questions and negative statements
As is the case with other English tenses, questions and negative statements in the Past Continuous are formed using the auxiliary.

Questions are formed by placing the auxiliary before the subject. For example:

Affirmative StatementQuestion
  I was working.  Was I working?
  They were working.  Were they working?

Negative statements are formed by placing the word not after the
auxiliary. For example:

Affirmative Statement                Negative Statement
  I was working.                 I was not working.
  They were working.              They were not working.

In spoken English, the contractions wasn't and weren't are often used.

Negative questions are formed by placing the auxiliary before the subject, and the word not after the subject. However, when contractions are used, the contracted form of not immediately follows the auxiliary. The following are examples of negative questions with and without contractions:

Without Contractions               With Contractions
  Was I not working?            Wasn't I working?
  Were they not working?            Weren't they working?

Tag questions are formed using the auxiliary. In the following examples, the negative tag questions are underlined. Contractions are usually used in negative tag questions. For example:

Affirmative Statement                  Affirmative Statement with Tag Question
  I was working.  I was working, wasn't I?
  They were working.  They were working, weren't they?