DailyWritingTips

Past Continuous Tense: Definition, Structure, and Usage

The past continuous tense is also known as the past progressive tense. 

The past continuous tense describes something that happened and continued for a short period of time after the action started.

For example:

  • The dog was barking when we pulled into the driveway. 
  • They were making dinner when you arrived home. 
  • She was playing video games when you left.

How Do You Form the Past Continuous Tense?

The past continuous tense is established from the past tense of “to be,” the main verb, and the “-ing” ending of the verb’s simple form.

Let’s look at how to form sentences in the past continuous tense. 

The Past Continuous Tense Formula

The formula to create a past continuous tense sentence is:

  • Subject + was/were + -ing form of the verb

For example:

  • The cats were sunning themselves in the window.
  • She was walking to the store. 

You can also use the past continuous tense to talk about actions repeated in the past, using time expressions “constantly” and “always” to show the precise time. 

For example:

  • He was always running and strength training.
  • My father was constantly talking about his dream car.

Past Continuous Tense Question Formation

Follow this formula if you’re using question forms in the past continuous tense:

  • Was/were + subject +-ing form of the verb

For example:

  • Was she playing in the park?
  • Were you listening in class yesterday? 

Past Continuous Tense Negative Formation

Follow this formula if you’re using negative forms in the past continuous tense:

  • Subject + was/were + not + -ing form of the verb

For example:

  • He was not paying attention to the instructor.

They were not going to make it to the concert on time.