Past Continuous 2

Past Tense Index / Past Simple / Past Simple further functions / Irregular VerbsPast Continuous / Past Continuous further functions / Past Simple or Past Continuous / Used to / Present Perfect / Present Perfect further functions / Present Perfect Continuous / Present Perfect Simple or Continuous / Past Perfect / Past Perfect Continuous / Past Perfect Simple or Past Perfect Continuous / Future in the Past

Form


The form of the Past Continuous is discussed here

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Further Functions


We use the Past Continuous can be used to:

  • talk about ongoing or repeated events in the past:

I was finishing work late every night, I had to take a break

I was commuting to work during that year.


This function is only used if the events or activities that are repeated are "background actions" as discussed here). If the repeated actions are the main or primary events, we use the Past Simple. 


I sent you four messages last night. Where were you?


NOT: I was sending you four messages last night.


We tend to use the Past Continuous to highlight the duration of an activity, but if there is a number of events/actions this is expressed using a simple tense. 

  • suggest an activity or situation was temporary or subject to change:

I was waiting for you to change your mind

We were living in the hotel before the house was ready for us to move in

They were winning the game before the other team scored twice



We tend to use the structure "Used to" when we talk about habits in the past that are no longer true instead of the Past Continuous:


We used to go to the Irish bar every Friday but now we stay at home


NOT: We were going to the Irish bar every Friday night but now we stay at home


I was spending two hours on the bus every morning, it was terrible. That was why I changed job.


  • refer to a specific or definite period of time, usually to emphasise the activity continued over a period of time:

I was drinking all night because it was a celebration!

We were tidying the house all morning because we had guests coming 


  • provide context for an event. (this can often be seen as the background event)

I didn't see you last week, I was working from home


We met Chris in the supermarket, we were shopping for our dinner party





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