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Past continuous

I was doing
The past continuous of any verb is comprised of two parts: the past tense of the verb to be (was/were), and the base of the main verb +ing.
The past continuous describes actions in a time before now, which started in the past and was still going on at the time of speaking. In other words, it expresses an unfinished action in the past.
This use of the past continuous is very common at the beginning of a story.
  • Yesterday I was waiting for a taxi when the taxi crashed.
  • Last Friday as I was driving to work I ran out of petrol.

We frequently use the past simple and the past continuous together to say that something happened in the middle of something else.


  • I was walking home when I met Alice.
  • Amanda was having dinner when we arrived.
  • I saw you in the restaurant yesterday, you were sitting at a table reading the menu.
  • I hurt my hand while I was working in the garden.


  • I shouted at her but she wasn't listening.
  • This time last year she was not living in Brazil.
  • We was not feeding the goats yesterday.
  • I did not see you were sitting on the grass yesterday.


  • What were you doing at 10pm last night?
  • What were you doing when she arrived?
  • Was she sun bathing when I telephoned her?
  • Were they having breakfast when it started to snow?

For something which continued before and after another action:

  • The children were playing with their toys when I got home.
  • As I was reading the newspaper the telephone rang.

For something that happened before and after a particular time:

  • It was eight o’clock I was writing a letter.
To show that something continued for some time
  • My back was hurting.
  • Everybody was singing.

For something that was happening again and again:

  • I was washing every day, twice a day.
  • They were eating secretly at night.
  • They were always staring at me.
Some verbs show change or growth
  • My parents were getting old quickly.
  • Her spelling was improving.
  • My teeth were falling out.
  • The model was dressing quickly.
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