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Past continuous

Level: beginner

The past continuous is made from the past tense of the verb be and the –ing form of a verb:

I was
You were
He was
She was
It was
We were
You were
They were



We use the past continuous to talk about the past:

  • for something which happened before and after another action:

The children were doing their homework when I got home.

Compare: The children did their homework when (= after) I got home.

This use of the past continuous is very common at the beginning of a story:

The other day I was waiting for a bus when …
Last week, as I was driving to work, … 

  • for something that happened before and after a specific time:

It was eight o'clock. I was writing a letter.

Compare: At eight o'clock I wrote (= started writing) some letters.

  • to show that something continued for some time:

My head was aching.
Everyone was shouting.

  • for something that happened again and again:

was practising every day, three times a day.
They were meeting secretly after school.
They were always quarrelling.

  • with verbs which show change or growth:

The children were growing up quickly.
Her English was improving.
My hair was going grey.
The town was changing quickly.

We do not normally use the past continuous with stative verbs. We use the past simple instead:

When I got home, I really needed (NOT was needinga shower.

Past continuous


Past continuous and past simple


Level: intermediate

Past continuous and hypotheses

We can also use the past continuous to refer to the present or future in hypotheses (when we imagine something). See these pages:


Greetings Kevan.
Yes, I' think many people got than some topic (like nouns section) now have an exircises and it's realy very useful! But I think it will be better if there will be more practical exercises. This, for example, is linked with undestanding of past continues grammar but I guess much of students also need some examples how to use this tense on practice. Hope you will be agreed with me :)
Best regards,
P.S. Thank you very much for creating such useful website!

 I request you to provide some exercise to practice is useful to understand the subject. 

Hi Sarathbabu.b

We have comissioned exercises for this new section of our web site and are adding them as they are completed. Hopefully there will be one for this section.

Kevan Cummins
The LearnEnglish Team