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Past Continuous Tense: Definition, Meaning, Examples & Structure

Last Updated : 04 Apr, 2024
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One of the primary tenses that are utilized when describing events that took place in the past in the English language is the past continuous. You will be able to enhance your descriptions of the past if you are familiar with how to use the past continuous tense. This is particularly useful when you are telling a story and want to go into detail about what transpired.

This is an easy concept to understand and once you have mastered it, you will be able to speak much more freely about the past.


What is the Past Continuous Tense?

When describing activities that started in the past and typically continued for at least a brief amount of time after the action began, the past continuous tense is the one to use. This tense is used to characterize activities or occurrences that took place at a particular point in the past. At the point in time when the sentence is being spoken or printed, these activities are typically no longer taking place.

Past Continuous Tense Formula

Past Continuous Tense Subject + Helping Verb(was/were) + Main verb + ing + the rest of the sentence It was snowing today.

Past Continuous Tense Structure

Type General Formula & Rule Example
Past Continuous Tense Subject + Helping Verb(was/were) + Main verb + ing + the rest of the sentence It was snowing today.

Past Continuous Tense Rules

The use of the past continuous has its own set of guidelines to follow. In its most fundamental version, it is constructed by combining the past tense of the verb “to be” with the present participle of a base verb and the suffix “-ing.”

Subject + was/ were + present participle verb + -ing + extra information

  • Was used for 
    I, she, he, and it.
  • Were used for
    You, they, we, and you all.
  • Was used for
    Proper names of singular people, the name of a country, continents, etc.
  • Were used for: 
    2 or more mentioned proper nouns.

Purpose of Past Continuous Tense

It is important to use the past continuous tense because it is used when mentioning actions or events that took place at a specific period in the past and which, in general, are no longer taking place now. You can demonstrate that an action or event occurred in the midst of another action by using either this tense by itself or in combination with the past simple tense. It provides a feeling of the order of events as well as the time period in which events from the past occurred in relation to one another.

  • The activity that was taking place in the past but had not reached its conclusion at the time the sentence was written is expressed using the past continuous tense.
  • Words such as always, constantly, perpetually, etc. are examples of those that can be used in the past continuous tense to describe an action that occurred on a regular basis in the past.
  • It describes the unfinished action that occurred in the past but does not provide information about when the action began or when it concluded.
  • It gives a simultaneous account of two events that took place in the past at the same moment.
  • It can also be used to describe one action that has already been completed (in the simple past tense) and another action that was ongoing in the past. The duration of the action that has been completed is relatively brief, whereas the duration of the action that is ongoing is significantly longer.

 Past Continuous Tense Examples

  • John was playing board games when his father arrived home.
  • The boys were playing basketball in the backyard.
  • Radhika was waiting at the bus stop when she received that message.
  • We all were eating food.
  • Ronak was studying last night.
  • Ruby was reading the newspaper when I came.
  • She wasn’t playing the guitar.
  • The boys were making a robot yesterday.

Past continuous Tense Exercise

Read the following sentences and change them into the past continuous tense.

  1. Arjun drinks cold coffee.
  2. Ravi is singing his favorite song.
  3. Suraj left home.
  4. All the family members played on the field.
  5. We will be going to Europe.
  6. The little girl cried all day.
  7. The dog ran into the woods.
  8. Simran performed at the annual function.
  9. The pigeon fought back.
  10. Tara will visit her maternal home.


  1. Arjun was drinking cold coffee.
  2. Ravi was singing his favorite song.
  3. Suraj was leaving home.
  4. All the family members were playing on the field.
  5. We were going to Europe.
  6. The little girl was crying all day.
  7. The dog was running into the woods.
  8. Simran was performing at the annual function.
  9. The pigeon was fighting back.
  10. Tara was visiting her maternal house.

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Past Continuous Tense- FAQs

 Qs 1. What do you mean by Past Continuous Tense?

The past continuous tense, also known as the past progressive tense, is used to talk about an action or circumstance that started in the past but is still occurring in the current day.

Qs 2. What is the definition of Past Continuous Tense?

When we speak about something that we were doing at a specific time in the past, we often use a tense called “past continuous,” which refers to an action that took place in the past but indicates what we were doing at that time.

Qs 3. What are the rules to be followed when using the Past Continuous Tense?

To create the past continuous tense, we first use the past tense of the word to be, then we follow that up with the present participle of the same verb. A present participle is a form of a word that is formed by adding the suffix -ing to the end of the original verb.

Qs 4.  What is the formula of Past Continuous Tense?

Subject + was/were + continuous form of the verb ending in -ing

Qs 5. Give some examples of Past Continuous Tense

  • While we were playing cricket, it started to rain.
  • We were listening to loud music, so we didn’t hear the doorbell ring.
  • While Ajay was sleeping, someone took his laptop.

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