Past Continuous Tense – Rules, Examples and Exercises


Past Continuous Tense Rules, Examples and Exercises. Past Continuous Tense Rules in detail with Examples. This tense shows an action which was going on in the past. The first form of the verb with ing is used in this tense. Let’s learn how to make Past Continuous Tense.

Past Continuous Tense Rules and Sentences

The Past Continuous Tense is used show an action which was happening in the past.

Structure: Subject + was/were + Verb I + ing + object + other words

Helping Verb – Was, Were

Main Verb – Verb I + ing


  • Was is used with Singular Subjects (He, She, it or singular nouns).
  • Were is used with Plural subjects (You, we, they or plural nouns).
  • Was is used with ‘I’.
  • We add ‘ing’ to the main verb.
  • When, While and As are used in the time clause.
Past Continuous Tense - Rules, Examples and Exercises
Past Continuous Tense Examples

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Use of Past Continuous Tense

We use the Past Continuous to express the following:

The past continuous tense is used to express an action that was happening at a specific time in the past:


  • Rohan was writing his new novel at this time in the morning.
  • I was reading the newspaper when you phoned me.
  • My washing machine wasn’t working properly yesterday.
  • She was cooking the food when I entered the kitchen.
  • When I saw him, he was flying a kite yesterday.
  • What was he doing at 9 o’clock on Tuesday?
  • The boy was learning his lesson in the evening.

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To express an action with the past simple to tell that an action took place in the middle of another action.

Let’s read the following examples. You will see an action happened (simple past) when an action was happening (past continuous tense).

  • When you reached there, She was ironing her clothes.
  • She was driving her fast when the traffic police chased him.
  • Was the doctor treating the patient when you reached there?
  • Was the family watching the movie when the cat came into the room?
  • When I saw him in the field, he was playing with kids.
  • What were they searching there when the police came?

Time Clause (When,While and As)

We use when, while and as when an action in the time clause to show a progressive activity.

  • When I was working on the computer, I saw my boss beside me.
  • As she was cooking the food, her mother came into the kitchen.
  • While it was raining outside, he went for shopping yesterday.

Note – We cannot use while and as in the time clause, if the verb is the past simple. Lets read the examples below:

  • Wrong: While I was washing my clothes, I heard a voice.
  • Wrong: As I was washing my clothes, I heard a voice.

Two actions happening together:

  • He was sleeping while I was reading. (While he was sleeping, I was reading.)
  • Jack was driving while I was talking on the phone. ( While Jack was driving, I was talking on the phone.)

In the reported speech of indirect speech:

The Present Continuous Tense verb changed into the Past Continuous Tense.

He said to me, ” I am writing a novel.”
He told me that she was wring a novel.

Affirmative Sentences

Structure – Subject + was/were + verb I + ing + object + other words

Examples –

1. He was playing hockey.

2. She was running with her friends.

3. It was raining yesterday.

4. Rohan was closing his shop.

5. I was waiting for you yesterday.

6. They were having a party.

7. You were looking for two boys.

8. We were not going to Agra with our teacher.

9. The men were beating the boy when I saw them.

10. When I came, you were listening to the music.

Negative Sentences

Structure – Subject + was/were + not + verb I + ing + object + other words

Rule – We can write ‘was not‘ or ‘wasn’t‘ and ‘were not‘ or ‘weren’t‘ to form negative sentences in the past continuous tense.

Examples –

1. The man was not helping the beggar.

2. She was not teaching you Spanish.

3. It not raining when you came here.

4. I was not sleeping in the garden.

5. Jennifer was not teaching you how to make a kite.

6. That boy was not working hard to get good marks.

7. The lion was not looking at us.

8. The children were not playing.

9. We were not writing essays on Christmas.

10. They were not buying eggs from the store.

Interrogative Sentences (Yes-No)

In the beginning of the sentence, was or were is used to an interrogative sentence of Past Continuous Tense.

Structure – Was/were + subject + verb I + ing + object + other words +?


1. Was he watching a horror movie yesterday?

2. Were they thinking about you?

3. Was he building a new house beside the river?

4. Was it raining there yesterday?

5. Were your friends searching treasure in the cave?

6. Was John swimming on Monday?

7. Were they going to the USA by air?

8. Was your mother meeting you on the weekend?

9. Were the teachers praising the students?

10. Was the man drowning in the sea?

Interrogative Sentences (Wh-words)

Structure – Questions word + was/were + subject + verb I + ing + object + other words +?


1. Why were you going to park yesterday?

2. Who was solving your your problem?

3. When were you going to cinema with Jack?

4. What was he doing yesterday?

5. Whom were you inviting to the party?

6. Where were the students going for picnic?

7. What was he buying from the mall?

8. How many girls were dancing on the stage?

9. How was the driver driving the truck on the road?

10. Why were the police catching the thief?

Interrogative Negative Sentences

In Interrogative Negative Sentences we put not after the subject ( noun/pronoun). Let’s read the examples below:

Examples –

1. Was the judge not punishing the criminal?

2. Were you not suffering from fever?

3. Wasn’t it raining yesterday?

4. Was I not teaching you Chinese?

5. Was the police officer not catching the criminal?

6. Why were they not studying in the library?

7. Who wasn’t riding the bike there?

8. With whom were they not traveling by aeroplane?

9. Which was boy was not obeying you?

10. What was he not doing when your friends came?

Exercise for Practice

Complete the following sentences using the verb of Past Continuous Tense:

  1. He ______________ the plants. (water)
  2. She ______________ not _____________. (sing)
  3. I was ____________ the poor. (help)
  4. It was __________ heavily when I reached the city. (rain)
  5. They __________ not _________ in the park. (play)

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