Past Continuous

Past Continuous Grammar Guide


Subject + was/were + gerund + object

The past continuous has no unique conjugations. It uses the past of to be plus the gerund and follows the spelling rules for gerund structures.

I was eating dinner

was not/were not (wasn't/weren't) + gerund


was/were + subject + gerund....?

We weren't studying English

Were you watching the film?

was/were + gerund




I was walking to school

We were planning our holiday

A Past Continuous action is often used in combination with another action, as the Past Continuous is used to express the background action, what was happening when something else happened. This can sometimes be demonstrated with use of a timeline and so is often called the long action. 

Action A) I was walking to school


Action B) I saw the accident

Action A the "long action or "background action" is interrupted or unfinished when the "short action", or specific moment in the past occurs

past cont timeline 1.jpg

The Past Continuous is often referred to as a narrative tense. It is very common to use the past continuous in tandem with another tense.

We use the Past Continuous to:

  • talk about incomplete/interrupted actions at a particular moment in the past

Further topics

Differences between Past Simple and Past Continuous here

Further Functions for the Past Continuous can be found here