​Past Continuous Active

Past Continuous Active is formed by was (past to be form for singular subjects)/were (past to be form for plural subjects) +verb +ing (or participle I/present participle).

Stative (that do not express action) verbs are not used in Past Continuous.

They are: agree, appear, believe, belong, concern, consist, contain, depend, deserve, disagree, dislike, doubt, feel (=have an opinion), fit, hate, hear, imagine, impress, include, involve, know, like, love, matter, mean, measure (=find out how long, wide, great, etc.), mind, need, own, owe, prefer, promise, realise, recognise, remember, see, seem, sound, suppose, surprise, understand, want, weigh (=find out how heavy), wish.


  • actions in progress at a particular moment in the past;
  • temporary situations and series of temporary actions in the past/background information in a story;
  • changing and developing past situations;
  • definite future arrangements or fixed plans in the past context;
  • annoying or amusing habits (usually with always/permanently/constantly/never) in the past context;
  • for reporting present continuous in the past.

Tense expressions

  • all morning / evening / day / night, etc
  • as
  • at… o`clock yesterday
  • from… till…
  • the whole evening
  • when
  • while
  • yesterday

Meanings Examples

temporary prolonged situation simultaneous with another short action

While he was exploring the wound with his fingers, he heard another shot.

temporary prolonged situation simultaneous with another prolonged action

When the husband was ironing his shirts the wife was laying the table.

actions in progress at a particular moment in the past

At this time last week I was driving to Paris.

background information in a story

My sister was wearing ear-phones when I called her, so she did not hear the call.

reporting present continuous in the past.

The policeman asked how fast she was driving when the accident happened.

changing and developing past situations

Driving was becoming more and more popular those days.

definite future arrangements or fixed plans in the past context

Everybody new that we were playing tennis the next Sunday.

emotional expressing annoying or amusing habits

I was angry as he was never saying sorry for whatever wrong he did.

More examples

  1. Whilst he was petting the horses and trying to quiet them, dark clouds drifted rapidly across the sky.
  2. Then he looked at his watch again, and, straightway holding his reins firmly - for the horses were still pawing the ground restlessly and shaking their heads - he climbed to his box as though the time had come for proceeding on our journey.
  3. I was having a pleasant chat with them about our grandchildren when someone called me.
  4. While the terrorists were charging the bomb with an explosive substance, one of them went off.
  5. She was pulling her child along, paying no attention to his tantrums.
  6. Some of the younger workers were cooking up a plan for cheating the firm.
  7. So many people were running after the bus that people could hardly get off.
  8. He was stirring his tea saying nothing.
  9. While mother was folding the fabric and stitching the two layers together, her son was patiently waiting.
  10. The cook was whipping up a meal for us, when we arrived.
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