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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:


hello sir.
A and B are talking on the phone.
B says: i was just calling to see if i get a role in your movie.

my question is why B uses past continuous tense? talking on the phone is still in the present moment.
i think B should say " I'm just calling to see...."

please explain.

Hello ahmednagar,

Both the past continuous and the present continuous are correct here. It's not really a question of grammar but of conventions of use, and both forms are quite common. I would say that the past continuous form is perhaps seen as slightly more polite or formal, but both are very commonly used.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

thank you so much.

hi kirk
The other day I was waiting for a bus when …

why you use the end of the sentence wh form. how is possible. kindly clarify me

would you please help me correct my student composition and explain them for corrected version. bear in mind my student level is intermediate.

One day my two sons decided playing (1) football in our garden. At that time out next–door neighbour was watering those (2) flowers in his greenhouse. My younger son was kicking (3) the ball very hardly(4). The ball went on top of the greenhouse and the glass got broken. The neighbour has got (5) very angry with them and said, “You’re very naughty boys.

Hello memol95,

I'm afraid we don't offer the service of correcting users' texts. We're simply too small a team with too much work to be able to do it fairly. If you have a specific question about a specific part of a sentence, however, please don't hesitate to ask us about it.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir explain to me if this sentence is wrong or correct?
"As I was walking through the main building, I saw the director entering into his car and drove away."

Hello azeezabideen,

I would change the sentence slightly:

As I was walking through the main building, I saw the director get into his car and drive away.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,

From the sentence above: "As I walking through the main building, I saw the director get into his car and drive away."

I am confused, why not "gets" and "drives" in the above sentence instead of "get" and "drive". Please help to clarify.

Hello Raman,

The structure here is: see (someone) do something

The form of the verb is the base form, not the present simple. It is possible to use a present participle too:

I saw him sing a song. [I saw the whole song]

I saw him singing a song. [I saw him sing part of a song, but I stopped watching before the end]

Note in the first example we use 'sing' (the base form) even though the sentence is describing a past event.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team