Affirmative: was/were + present participle (verb + ing)
Negative: wasn’t/weren’t + present participle (verb + ing)
- Past continuous is used to say that an action was in progress at a particular time in the past. The action had already started at this time but had not finished.
- I was having dinner at 6pm last night.
- What were you doing this time yesterday?
- Past continuous is used to say that an action was in progress at every moment during a period of time.
- You were working all morning, weren’t you?
- I was playing football all day yesterday.
- Past continuous is used with past simple. Past continuous refers to a longer or background action that was in progress; past simple refers to a shorter action that interrupted the longer action, or happened in the middle of it.
- He was walking to work when he met John.
- She was eating when the phone rang.
- While I was working in the garden, I heard a woman scream.
- Past continuous is used to say that an action in the past was temporary.
- You were working in the Sales Department last month, weren’t you?
- They were living in Paris for a year.
- Past continuous is used with words such as always to talk about things that happened repeatedly.
- Grandpa was always telling us funny stories about his life and cracking jokes.
- Some verbs are not normally used with past continuous because they are not action verbs, for example: believe, belong, depend, hate, know, like, love, mean, need, prefer, realise, suppose, want, understand.
- They knew each other very well – correct
- They were knowing each other very well – incorrect
See the phonemic chart for IPA symbols used below.
- Was and were are usually reduced to their weak forms in affirmative sentences and questions.
- I was planning to do it: /wəz/
- What were they thinking? /wə/
Related grammar points
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