Past Continuous Tense in English Grammar:
The Past Continuous Tense is also called the Past Progressive Tense. This tense is used to describe an action going on at a point of time in the past.
The Past Continuous Tense Structure and Formula: (Rules)
It is essential to focus on signal words because they help us identify the correct tense in a sentence. The signal words for the Past Continuous Tense are:
while, this time yesterday…,
Usage of the Past Continuous Tense:
It is used:
To describe an action going on at a specific point in the past.
- What were you doing by this time yesterday?
- I was watching TV by this time yesterday.
- I danced while Vinita was singing a song.
To describe two longer past actions that were taking place at the same time.
- While I was dictating, Rekha was writing a letter yesterday.
- Mahesh was playing Kabaddi while a huge audience was watching it.
With words ‘always’, ‘continually’ or ‘forever’ for persistent habits in the past.
- The baby was always crying.
- He was continually making the same mistake.
Past Continuous Vs. Past Simple
Stative verbs are not normally used in the Past Continuous Tense.
But, they can be used in Past Simple Tense. (Refer to Present Continuous Tense)
- He was becoming a successful man in the business. (wrong)
- He became a successful man in the business. (right)
- I was believing whatever you said. (wrong)
- I believed whatever you said. (right)
- The mail was containing unnecessary information. (wrong)
- The mail contained unnecessary information. (right)
When two actions are concerned in the past, the action of longer duration must be described in the past continuous, the shorter action in the past simple.
- When I saw him, he was playing chess. (the second action is of longer duration)
- While I was coming from the office, they met me. (The first action is of longer duration)