Past Continuous Tense

 In Verb Tenses

In the past continuous tense, the action was ongoing till a certain time in the past.  Past continuous tense is one of the categories of past tense verbs. The present, the past and the future forms of verb tenses are each divided into sub-categories – simple, continuous and perfect continuous. Past continuous tense is also known as past progressive tense.

Verb Tense Past Continuous

(was/were + present participle)

It happened in a specific time frame, and it was completed at some point well before the time of speaking or writing:

“Last night, at 7.30, I was cooking dinner.”

It is also used in sentences with when or while, to refer to an action which was taking place when another event – an interruption -occurred:

“Last night, while I was cooking dinner, Jane arrived.”

“When” is most often followed by the verb tense Simple Past, whereas “while” is usually followed by past continuous tense. “While” expresses the idea of “during that time.”

When you use the Past Continuous with two actions in the same sentence, it expresses the actions are taking place at the same time “I was studying while he was making dinner.”

the wind started howling - past continuous

the wind started howling – past continuous tense

The past continuous tense is commonly used to create an atmosphere –

“The weather was terrible.  The skies were darkening and the wind started howling.  Within minutes it was pouring with rain.”

Another example of past continuous tense usage is when an annoying or repetitive action in the past is described. It is usually combined with “always” such as:  “The neighbor’s dog was always barking.”

As you will see from these examples of usage, the past continuous tense is a useful grammar tool when telling stories and describing events.

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