When we use past continuous

Past Continuous
We use it when 2 ACTIONS WERE HAPPENING AT THE SAME MOMENT in the past. We often use “while” in this case. We also use past continuous when AN ACTION INTERRUPTED ANOTHER ACTION in the past. We often use “when” in this case.

An example of past continuous used with 2 ACTIONS IN PROGRESS HAPPENING AT THE SAME MOMENT.

Past continuous used to describe that Gina was ironing at the same time when her husband was watching football.

Examples of past continuous used when AN ACTION (in past simple) INTERRUPTED ANOTHER ACTION (in present continuous) in the past. “When” is used in this case.

Past continuous interrupted by past simple used to say that Gina was walking her dog when something happened.
Past continuous interrupted by past simple used to say that Gina was looking in the mirror when she saw something.

How we form past continuous

positive sentences: subject + verb “to be” in the past + verb-ing + object

negative sentences: subject + verb “to be” in the past + not + verb-ing + object

questions: verb “to be” in the past + subject + verb-ing + object

Other examples of past continuous use in a sentence

  • She was talking to him but he wasn’t listening.
  • I was trying to sleep when he woke me up.
  • I was cooking when I smelled something burning.

More about past continuous

We usually use past continuous in a sentence together with another past continuous or past simple (as in the examples above in the pictures).

Past continuous can also be used when an action happened in the background of another action. For example, “when I came in the room, the children were screaming and the teacher was trying to speak“. In this example, screaming children and the teacher who was trying to speak were background action, and “I came in the room” was the main action (not background). Another example might be: “He looked out of the window, the birds were flying and the sun was shining”.