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How to Use the Past Continuous

Video Overview

The past continuous tense describes an action that began at a time before now and continued until a second action began. This video will help you remember the grammar rules and formula for the past continuous tense in English and when to use it.

Video Analysis

The past continuous tense describes an action that began at a time before now and continued until a second action began. We can say the second action interrupted the first one.

We construct the past continuous tense with the subject, the past tense of the verb to be (was/were), the base verb and ing

subject + was/were + verb +ing

She was watching the match (when you called).

He was studying (when you rang).

She was making dinner (when she heard the news).

The past continuous can be used for overlapping times or actions (interruption of time and interruption of action) it can allow us to be specific about the time of an action in the past.

I was eating dinner at 8pm when the doorbell rang.

I was going to bed at 11pm when I heard a noise.

I was waiting to see the doctor yesterday morning.

In the first and second example where the action is interrupted by a second action (the doorbell ringing and hearing the noise), you can see the second action is described in the past simple tense.

I was eating dinner at 8pm when the doorbell rang.

I was going to bed at 11pm when I heard a noise.

The past continuous is also useful if you want to be polite and also make a request.  You can use the past continuous to make polite indirect requests and questions.

I am hoping you might have some time to help me.

I was wondering if you could help me?

I was thinking you might be the one to ask about...

The past continuous is also used to highlight a change that took place in the past over time.

Her English was improving after her stay in The States.

His cooking was getting better.

He was getting bigger and bigger every day.

Our video about the past continuous will help you to understand when and how to use this tense with lots of examples. You can also read our write up article to find out more information.


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