The past continuous tense
I was writing.
She was writing.
You were writing.
I was not writing.
She was not writing.
You were not writing.
Was I writing?
Was she writing?
Were you writing?
to talk about past events in progress
The past progressive is used to talk about events that were in progress around a particular past time.
- 'What were you doing yesterday evening?'
- 'I was watching TV.'
- At 7 am this morning, I was doing my homework.
The past progressive is also used to stress that an activity was in progress at every moment during a period of time.
- I was resting all day yesterday.
past progressive and simple past
We often use the past progressive together with a simple past tense. The past progressive refers to a longer background action or situation; the simple past refers to a shorter action or event that happened in the middle of the longer action.
- I was having a bath when the telephone rang.
- As I was driving down the street, I saw Peter.
- They were sleeping when the thieves broke in.
past progressive and simple past: differences
The past progressive is used to talk about temporary actions or situations. For longer, more permanent situations we use the simple past.
- It happened while I was living in Mumbai last year.
- I lived in Chennai for ten years while I was a child.
We do not normally use the past progressive to talk about repeated or habitual past actions. The simple past is used with this meaning.
- I phoned him four times. (NOT I was phoning four times.)
- I rang the bell seven times. (NOT I was ringing the bell seven times.)
However, the past progressive can be used with always, continually and similar words to talk about things that happened repeatedly and unexpectedly.
- He was always bringing us nice gifts.
- I didn't like him - he was continually making troubles.
The simple present tense
The present progressive tense
The present perfect tense
The present perfect progressive tense
Present tenses to talk about the future
The simple past tense
The past progressive tense
The past perfect tense
The past perfect progressive tense
Past verb forms with present or future meaning
The simple future tense
The future progressive tense
The future perfect tense