Past Continuous Tense

What is past continuous tense?

Past continuous tense is a combination of past tense of be verb (was/ were) and continuous aspect of the principal verb. 

  • It was raining last afternoon. 
  • We were waiting for the bus. 
  • Some passers-by were walking on the street. 


FORM: [was/were + present participle]


Use of Past Continuous

1. Events in progress 

We use past continuous for events in progress around a particular time in the past. 

I was studying at 5 pm yesterday. 

They were playing cricket. 


2. Past interrupted action

When one shorter action comes in the middle of another longer action, we use the shorter action in past simple and the longer action in past continuous. The longer action functions as the background of the short action. 

  • The accident happened when we were going to school. 
  • While I was swimming in the river, a shark attacked me. 
  • As it was raining outside, we stayed in the room. 


3. While with the past continuous

We sometimes use while with the past continuous.

  • Yesterday at 7 o'clock, I was walking to school while my friends were riding in a rickshaw.
  • Yesterday at 8 o'clock, my friends and I were sitting in our classroom while Ms. Kona was teaching.