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Past Continuous Tense

Simple past shows completion of action in the past
  • I played yesterday.
  • They went to a movie.
Where as, past continuous shows progression of action in the past.

Structure was/were + present participle
An action that was in progress in the past at a particular moment/ period
  • I’m writing. (What I am doing now at the moment of speaking)
  • I was writing. (Action that was going some where in the past)
  • They were playing yesterday.
  • He was talking to his boss at that time.
  • When they were traveling in the train, they watched beautiful sceneries.
  • I was writing when she came to my house.
(one action- writing- was in progress at the moment she came to my house. Writing was started earlier to her coming to my house.)
  • What were you doing when she came to your house?
  • I was not writing. I was cooking.
Some more examples:
  • Rani was waiting for the bus when she saw her friend
  • While I was walking on the road, my pen fell down.
  • The students were not listening to the teacher while he is teaching.
  • The students were writing when the teacher entered the classroom.
Two actions that took place simultaneously at the same time
  • The students were taking notes while the. teacher was teaching .
  • We were watching the movie while others were playing.
  • What were you doing while the child was going out?
Observe the use of while and when ….
In the above diagram the arrow marks show that both actions were in progress at a particular point of time. And the connective while is used showing the progress of the work, hence past continuous is used.

Now look at the use of when in past continuous tense
  • She was reading a novel when I went there.
  • One action was in progress when the other happened. >> when expresses a point of time in the past and it is always followed by simple past.
    - While expresses progression of action and it is usually followed by continuous tense.

For describing an event or series of actions
When the bell rang some students were coming out of the classroom, some were playing, the teachers were packing the books and coming out and the attendees were closing the doors.

Specific time also can be mentioned while mentioning a continuous action in the past.
  • We were watching the movie at 9 pm yesterday.
  • She was preparing for the interview last night.
Observe the following sentences
  • He was always preparing for exams, when I called. (Right)
  • He was preparing for exams always, when I called. (Wrong)
Words like ever, only, always etc precede their modifiers.
Fill in the blanks with simple past and past continuous.
  • What were you doing ………..( you, do) when the accident occurred?
  • The door bell rang………( ring) while I was cooking………..( cook)
  • It was raining…….(rain) when I ……… (get) up.
  • When I was young……..( be, young), I wanted ……..(want) to be a pilot.
  • I called………..( call) you last night, but you were……….(be) not there.
  • What were you doing when the accident occurred?
  • The door bell rang while I was cooking.
  • It was raining, when I got up.
  • When I was young I wanted to be a pilot.
  • I called you last night, but you were not there.
Published date : 05 Jan 2011 02:43PM

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