Past Continuous Tense – With Exercises Pictures and Examples

Past continuous tense (past progressive tense) is a verb tense that describes a continuing past action at a specific time. It it used to talk about an ongoing and uncompleted action at a particular moment in the past. The auxiliary verbs are “was” and “were“. The verbs always have “-ing” at the end.

Formation of past continuous tense

For positive sentences we use the formation of was/were” + verb + ing. For negative sentences we use “not” after the auxiliary verbs “was” or “were”. The short forms are “wasn’t” and “weren’t

  Was Why wasWhere was


was callingwas helpingplayingwas not talking runninggoing

at 7 O’clock.

Timeline of Past continuous tense

Positive (Affirmative) sentences

  • I was having breakfast.
  • They were watching TV.
  • Edward was playing chess.
  • My friends were playing basketball.

Negative sentences

  • I wasn’t sleeping. I was just thinking.
  • Emily wasn’t listening to the teacher.
  • He wasn’t going home.
  • It wasn’t raining at 8 PM yesterday.

Interrogative sentences (Questions)

  • Were you listening to me?
  • Was he driving carefully?
  • Where were you going?
  • Why were you walking fast?

Sentence forms in past continuous tense

past continuous tense Formula with example sentences
(+) Affirmative sentences (-) Negative sentences (?) Interrogative sentences
 I was going.  I was not going.  Was I going?
 You were going.  You were not going. Were you going?
 He was going.  He was not going.  Was he going?
 She was going.  She was not going.  Was she going?
 It was going.  It was not going.  Was it going?
 We were going.  We were not going. Were we going?
 They were going.  They were not going. Were they going?

❯❯ Learn verb to be here
❯❯ Learn simple present tense here
❯❯ Learn present continuous tense here
❯❯ Learn future simple tense (will) here
❯❯ Learn be going to future tense here
❯❯ Learn simple past tense here
❯❯ Learn present perfect tense here

Explanations and usages of past continuous tense

The explanations and usages of past continuous tense are below.

Usage 1- Continuous actions at a definite time

We use past continuous tense for continuous actions at a definite time in the past.

  • Last night at 9 p.m., I was listening to music.
  • We were talking about the new year at this time yesterday.
  • I was sleeping at 11 p.m. last night.

Usage 2- Longer actions with interruption.

We use past continuous to talk about a longer action in the past which is interrupted by another action.

  • While he was playing football, he broke his leg.
  • While Isabel was having a rest, she heard a strange noise.
  • I fell down while I was riding on my bike.
  • She closed her eyes while the man was standing on the rope.

While is usually used with past continuous tense.
When is usually used with past simple tense.

Usage 3- Parallel actions in the past.

You can use past continuous tense with two actions happening at the same time without interrupting each other. These are called parallel actions in the past.

  • While I was waiting for her, she was sleeping in her bed.
  • While it was raining, we were playing football in the garden.
  • Alice wasn’t studying maths while her mother was cooking.
  • She was cleaning the house while the men were working outside.
  • What were you doing while I was having a shower?

Usage 4- Describing the atmosphere (environment)

We can use a series of past continuous tense sentences to talk about the people and environment (atmosphere) at a specific time in the past.

The sun was shining and the birds were singing. Everybody was happy in the park. The children were playing games and their parents were sitting under the trees.

Keep in mind that you can not use non-progressive verbs with past continuous tense.

Pictures with example sentences

You can learn past continuous tense with images and example sentences here.

A dialogue to read and study

Here is a dialogue to learn past continuous tense. You can make similar dialogues.

  1. avatar image

    You were carrying a suitcase yestarday at 10 A.M

    Were you going anywhere?

  2. avatar image

    No. Actually I was helping my grandmother.

    I was taking her to the train station.

  3. avatar image

    Well. It was raining at that time of the day.

    Why didn’t you take a taxi?

  4. avatar image

    We were going to the nearby market to buy something.

  5. avatar image

    Then we can meet at 6 P.M. today

  6. avatar image


Translate the sentences into your language

You will see some examples of past continuous tense below. You can try to translate them into your own language.

Sentence scramble activity

Below is a sentence scramble activity to practice past continuous tense. Select the words in the correct order and make a sentence.


Example sentences about past continuous tense

You can see a few sentences here to learn past continuous tense.

10 examples of past continuous tense

  1. When the doorbell rang, they were watching TV.
  2. When the lights went out he was sitting on an armchair.
  3. My guests arrived while I was cooking.
  4. I met my old friend while I was drinking coffee in a cafe.
  5. James was lying on the grass.
  6. They were talking about the following match.
  7. I was using my computer.
  8. The dog was running after a little girl.
  9. The sun was shining.
  10. He was helping his father.

Questions and answers

You can read the questions and the answers below to learn how to use past continuous tense.

10 questions and answers about past continuous tense

  1. What were you eating?
    I was eating an apple.
  2. Were you going home?
    Yes, I was going home.
  3. What were you thinking?
    I was thinking about my future plans.
  4. Was it snowing?
    No, It wasn’t snowing.
  5. Who were you talking to?
    I was talking to my friend.
  6. Was the phone ringing?
    Yes, It was ringing.
  7. What was she doing when she cut her finger?
    She was cutting some paper.
  8. What was he doing when he fell down?
    He was running after his sister.
  9. Were you sleeping?
    No, I wasn’t.
  10. Were you crying?
    No, I was chopping onions.

Reading passage

It was a summer afternoon. The weather was hot and the sun was shining. We were having picnic by the lake. That was our favourite place for picnic. My father was trying to set fire and my mother was preparing the salad. When Amy, my little sister, shouted, we were preparing the picnic table. She was crying for help. We looked around to find her. When we looked behind the bushes, she was lying on the ground with a thorn on her hand. We helped her and she was OK after 10 minutes.

External resources:
You can also study past continuous tense on British Council page.

5/5 - (7 votes)