Past continuous tense

Past Continuous Tense: Definition, Rules, And FREE Exercises

Greetings, fellow language learners

In this blog post, we’ll be exploring the past continuous tense in English. 

From the definition to examples and exercises, I’ll guide you through the ins and outs of this tense.

So, let’s jump in and get started!

Further reading:

Past Continuous Tense Definition 

The past continuous tense, or past progressive, is a way of talking about things that were happening in the past and were in progress for a period of time. 

Past Continuous Tense Formula

Subject + was/were + verb-ing

For example: “I was walking to the store,” or “They were studying for their exams.”

It’s important to note that “was” is used with singular subjects (I, he, she, it), and “were” is used with plural subjects (we, you, they).

Examples Of Past Continuous Tense

Here’s an example of the past continuous tense being used:

I was driving to work when I saw a deer running across the road.

In this sentence, “was driving” is the past continuous tense, as it describes an ongoing action that was taking place in the past.

Another example:

The kids were playing outside while their parents were cooking dinner.

Here, “were playing” and “were cooking” are both in the past continuous tense, as they describe ongoing actions that were taking place simultaneously in the past.

When Should You Use The Past Continuous Tense?

Interrupted actions in the pastI was watching TV when the power went out.
Two or more actions in progress at the same time in the pastThey were cooking dinner while I was doing my homework.
Temporary actions in progress in the pastShe was living in New York at the time.
Background information in a story/Background information in a news report– The sun was setting, and the birds were singing.
– The protestors were marching through the streets and chanting slogans.
Polite inquiries in the pastI was wondering if you could lend me your notes.
Repetitive or annoying actions in the pastHe was always leaving his socks on the floor.

Past Continuous Tense Sentences

  1. They were dancing to the music while the band was playing.
  2. He was working on his laptop while listening to music.
  3. We were waiting for the bus when it started to rain heavily.
  4. The teacher was explaining the lesson while the students were taking notes.
  5. They were enjoying their vacation while exploring the city.

Past Simple Vs. Past Continuous

English learners often find past simple and past continuous tenses confusing. 

Although both tenses are used to describe past events, they are used in different ways. 

Here’s a simple table comparing the past simple and past continuous tenses:

Past SimplePast Continuous
UsageDescribes completed actions or events in the pastDescribes ongoing actions or events in the past
FormSubject + Verb + -ed (for regular verbs) or irregular form (e.g. ate, ran)Subject + Was/Were + Verb-ing
ExamplesHe ate breakfast. / They ran a marathon.He was eating breakfast. / They were running a marathon.

What Are 10 Examples Of Past Continuous?

  1. She was reading a book when her phone rang.
  2. The wind was howling, and the rain was pouring down.
  3. She was studying for her exam while her friends were at the movies.
  4. We were having a picnic in the park when it started raining.
  5. The dogs were barking loudly while the mailman delivered the mail.
  6. He was cooking dinner while she was setting the table.
  7. The baby was crying while the mother was changing his diaper.
  8. They were hiking up the mountain when they saw a beautiful view.
  9. The birds were chirping while the sun was rising.
  10. He was practicing his guitar when his friend dropped by unexpectedly.

Past Continuous Tense Worksheets

Worksheet 1: Multiple Choice 

Past continuous exercises

Directions: Choose the correct form of the verb to complete the sentence.

1. While I ___________ (study) for my exam, my roommate ___________ (watch) TV. 

a) was studying, was watching 

b) studied, watched

c) was studying, watched

2. He ___________ (sing) in the shower when I ___________ (knock) on the door. 

a) was singing, knocked 

b) sang, was knocking 

c) was singing, was knocking

3. They ___________ (play) board games all night long. 

a) played 

b) were playing 

c) have played

Answers: a), a), b)

Worksheet 2: Fill in the blanks

Past continuous worksheets

Directions: Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the verb in parentheses.

  1. The kids ___________ (play) soccer in the park when it ___________ (start) raining. 
  2. My mom ___________ (watch) TV when I ___________ (arrive) home. 
  3. The teacher ___________ (explain) the lesson when the fire alarm ___________ (go) off. 
  4. They ___________ (walk) in the park when they ___________ (see) their old friend. 
  5. I ___________ (study) for my exam when my phone ___________ (ring). 


  1. were playing, started
  2. was watching, arrived
  3. was explaining, went
  4. were walking, saw
  5. was studying, rang

Wrapping Up

That’s it for our exploration of the past continuous tense! 

Keep practicing and using the past continuous in your conversations, and before you know it, you’ll be a pro! 

If you found this article helpful, share it with your friends or on social media to help others who may be struggling with this tense. 

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