When do we use the past continuous?

At the beginning of a story:
This morning, when I went out to get some milk, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, people were driving to work and walking to school…

To talk about something which happened at a particular moment in the past, often starting before that moment and continuing after it.

Example: What were you doing at 10 o’clock this morning?
At 10 o’clock this morning Craig was working on his computer.
Reza was having a shower.

I was making tea when Reza rang the bell. (compare with:”Reza rang the bell, he came in, I made tea, I took out the biscuits.”)

Use the present continuous when two actions are happening parallel to one onother in the past:

As I was making tea, Reza was telling me about his weekend.

While Reza was preparing the dinner, his girlfriend was watching TV.

I was dreaming about this beautiful girl when suddenly my alarm clock rang.

What were you doing at 9 o’clock last night?
Where were you at 11 am yesterday morning?

¡OJO! Not all long actions in the past are expressed with the past continuous tense. (“Reza lived in Salamanca for two years.” – Past simple)

We also use the past continuous:

….for something that was happening again and again:

I was practising Spanish every day for at least an hour.
He was having an affair with his secretary.
They were always eating in expensive restaurants.

with verbs which show change or growth:

My two daughters were growing up quickly.
My Spanish was improving.
My hair was going grey.

How do you form the past continuous? – Use the past of the verb TO BE (was/were) + ing – Examples: “I was editing a podcast when my mum rang.” / “Reza and I were having a beer when we saw a student walk past.”

The question form: “What were you doing yeasterday at 11am?”

The negative form: “I was NOT watching TV this morning.” – “We were not drinking beer.” – Contractions: “I wasn’t watching TV, I was working on my computer.” – “We weren’t drinking beer, we were having a conversation.”

“I was wondering if you’d like to come out to dinner tonight.”

…and now it’s your turn to practise your English. We want you to give us some personal examples of past continuous and present perfect continuous. Answer the question: “What were you doing when you were listening to this podcast?”

*Dispones de más PODCAST en inglés publicados en los cuadernos anteriores
a los que puedes acceder directamente así como al índice de su contenido.


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