The Past Continuous Tense

The Past Continuous is used to describe:

  • past action in progress at a given point in time: She was still working at eight o’clock yesterday evening. 
  • past action in progress interrupted by another past action: She was leaving when the phone rang.
  • simultaneous past actions: While Jane was getting dressed, Tom was enjoying his drink.

Time expressions:

  • at 3 o’clock yesterday
  • while
  • all morning
  • the whole day
  • from 6 till 7

Past Continuous and Past Simple

  • We often use the Past Continuous with the Past Simple. We use the Past Simple for a short/complete action: I broke my leg.
  • We use the Past Continuous for a longer activity in progress in the past: I was playing football.
  • Before the Past Continuous we often use when or while: While I was playing football, I broke my leg. I broke my  leg when I was playing football.
  • Before the Past Simple we normally use when: What were you doing when the accident happened?

Exercise 1. Use the verbs in brackets in the Present Continuous or Past Continuous.

  1. I (to write) an English exercise now.
  2. I (to write) an English exercise at this time yesterday.
  3. My little sister (to sleep) now.
  4. My little sister (to sleep) at this time yesterday.
  5. My friends (not to do) their homework now. They (to play) volleyball.
  6. My friends (not to do) their homework at seven o’clock yesterday. They (to play) volleyball.
  7. She (to read) the whole evening yesterday.
  8. She (not to read) now. She (to go) to school.
  9. What you (to do) now? — I (to drink) tea.
  10. You (to drink) tea at this time yesterday? — No, I (not to drink) tea at this time yesterday, I (to eat) a banana.
  11. My sister is fond of reading. She (to read) the whole evening yesterday, and now she (to read) again.
  12. Look! My cat (to play) with a ball.
  13. When I went out into the garden, the sun (to shine) and birds (to sing) in the trees.
  14. You (to eat) ice cream now?
  15. You (to eat) ice cream when I rang you up yesterday?
  16. What your father (to do) now?
  17. What your father (to do) from eight till nine yesterday?
  18. Why she (to cry) now? Why she (to cry) when I saw her yesterday?

Exercise 2. Use the verbs in brackets in the Past Simple or Past Continuous Tense.

  1. I (to go) to the cinema yesterday.
  2. I (to go) to the cinema at four o’clock yesterday.
  3. I (to go) to the cinema when you met me.
  4. I (to do) my homework the whole evening yesterday.
  5. I (to do) my homework when mother came home.
  6. I (to do) my homework yesterday.
  7. I (to do) my homework from five till eight yesterday.
  8. I (to do) my homework at six o’clock yesterday.
  9. I (not to play) the piano yesterday. I (to write) a letter to my friend.
  10. I (not to play) the piano at four o’clock yesterday. I (to read) a book.
  11. He (not to sleep) when father came home. He (to do) his homework.
  12. When I (to go) to school the day before yesterday, I met Mike and Pete. They (to talk) and (to laugh). They told me a funny story. Soon I (to laugh), too. I still (to laugh) when we came to school. After school I (to tell) this story at home. My father and mother (to like) it very much.
  13. When we were in the country last summer, I (to go) to the wood one day. In the wood I (to find) a little fox cub. I (to bring) it home. I (to decide) to tame the cub. Every day I (to feed) it and (to take) care of it. I (to tame) it the whole summer. Now the fox cub is quite tame. It lives in my house.
  14. I (to play) computer games yesterday.
  15. I (to play) computer games at five o’clock yesterday.
  16. He (to play) computer games from two till three yesterday.
  17. We (to play) computer games the whole evening yesterday.
  18. My brother (not to play) tennis yesterday. He (to play) tennis the day before yesterday.
  19. My sister (not to play) the piano at four o’clock yesterday. She (to play) the piano the whole evening.
  20. . When I came into the kitchen, my mother (to cook). She (to cook) the whole day yesterday.
  21. We (to wash) the floor in our flat yesterday. We (to wash) the floor in our flat from three till four yesterday.
  22. You (to do) your homework yesterday?
  23. You (to do) your homework from eight till ten yesterday?
  24. Why she (to sleep) at seven o’clock yesterday?
  25. He (to sit) at the table the whole evening yesterday.
  26. What Nick (to do) when you came to his place?
  27. What you (to do) when I rang you up?
  28. I (not to sleep) at nine o’clock yesterday.
  29. What he (to do) yesterday? — He (toread) a book.
  30. What he (to do) the whole evening yesterday? — He (to read) a book.

Compare these sentences:

  • When mother came home, I was reading.
  • When mother was reading, I came home.

Exercise 3. Use the verbs in brackets in the Past Simple or Past Continuous.

  1. When I (to come) home, my little sister (to sleep).
  2. When Nick (to come) home, his brother (to play) with his toys.
  3. When mother (to come) home, I (to do) my homework.
  4. When father (to come) home, Pete (to sleep).
  5. When mother (to come) home, the children (to play) on the carpet.
  6. When I (to get) up, my mother and father (to drink) tea.
  7. When I (to come) to my friend’s place, he (to watch) TV.
  8. When I (to see) my friends, they (to play) football.
  9. When I (to open) the door, the cat (to sit) on the table.
  10. When Kate (to open) the door, the children (to dance) round the Christmas tree.
  11. When Tom (to cross) the street, he (to fall)
  12. When I (to go) to school, I (to meet) my friend.
  13. When we (to go) to the cinema, we (to meet) our grandmother.
  14. When grandmother (to go) home, she (to see) many children in the yard.
  15. When Henry (to walk) about in the forest, he (to find) a bear cub.
  16. When we (to walk) about in the forest, we (to see) a hare.
  17. When I (to wash) the floor, I (to find) my old toy under the sofa.
  18. When granny (to read) a book on the sofa, she (to fall) asleep.
  19. When I (to play) in the yard, I suddenly (to see) my old friend.
  20. When Nick (to run) about in the yard, he (to fall).
  21. The girl (to cook) dinner when the lights (to go) out. She (to burn) herself.
  22. The boy (to hurt) himself while he (to skate).
  23. When the woman (to enter) the room, the children (to feed) the goldfish.
  24. When I (to visit) my friends in Denmark, I (to buy) two presents for my family.
  25. When it (to start) to rain, we (to bathe) in the river.
  26. Yesterday at one o’clock I (to have) lunch at the canteen.
  27. When he (to come) in, I (to do) my exercises.
  28. What you (to do) at eight o’clock yesterday?
  29. At this time yesterday I (to go) home.
  30. You (to sleep) when I (to go) out.
  31. He (to read) on the sofa when I (to come) in and (to sit) down beside him.
  32. I (to walk) along the street with my friend when a tram (to pass).
  33. She (to look) out of the window when I (to see) her.
  34. We (to answer) the teacher’s questions when the headmistress (to enter) the classroom.
  35. They (to drink) tea when I (to come) home.
  36. He (to walk) along the river when a boat (to pass).
  37. The old man (to think) about his plan when he (to fall) asleep.
  38. We (to listen) to an interesting lecture yesterday.
  39. When I (to enter) the classroom, the teacher (to write) words on the blackboard and the pupils (to copy) them into their exercise books.
  40. They (to get) ready to go out when it (to begin) raining.

Exercise 4. Use the verbs in brackets in the Past Simple or Past Continuous.

  1. I (to go) to the theatre yesterday. At seven o’clock yesterday I (to go) to the theatre.
  2. What you (to do) at 5 o’clock yesterday? — I (to play) the piano.
  3. When I (to come) to school, the children (to stand) near the classroom.
  4. We (to play) in the yard the whole evening yesterday.
  5. When I (to prepare) breakfast in the morning, I (to cut) my finger.
  6. Last year I (to go) to the United States.
  7. You (to go) to Great Britain last year? — No, I (to go) to France.
  8. What you (to do) yesterday? — I (to translate) a very long article.
  9. When I (to ring) up my friend, he (to sleep).
  10. When grandfather (to watch) TV, he (to fall) asleep.
  11. When my friend (to come) to see me, I (to do) my homework.
  12. When I (to go) to the stadium, I (to meet) Kate and Ann.
  13. When Nick (to call) me yesterday, I (to help) mother.
  14. When the children (to walk) through the wood, they (to see) a fox.
  15. When I (to come) home, my sister (to wash) the floor.
  16. When Mike (to play) in the yard, he (to find) a ball.
  17. When I (to draw) yesterday, I (to break) two pencils.
  18. When I (to meet) Tom, he (to go) to the shop.
  19. When I (to look) out of the window, the children (to play) hide-and-seek.

Exercise 5. Use the verbs in brackets in Past Simple or Past Continuous Tenses.

Pay attention to these sentences:

  • Father was reading at 7 o’clock yesterday. (the action is in progress – Past Continuous)
  • Father came home at 7 o’clock yesterday. (completed action – Past Simple)
  1. Father (to watch) TV at ten o’clock yesterday.
  2. I (to go) to bed at nine o’clock yesterday.
  3. I (to finish) my homework at nine o’clock yesterday.
  4. I (to play) the piano at five o’clock yesterday.
  5. He (to begin) to do his homework at four o’clock yesterday.
  6. She (to wash) the floor at four o’clock yesterday.
  7. I (to meet) Nick at three o’clock yesterday.
  8. When I (to come) home, Kate (to play) the piano.
  9. They (to play) in the yard in the evening yesterday.
  10. They (to play) in the yard the whole evening yesterday.
  11. I (to clean) my teeth at eight o’clock in the morning yesterday.
  12. We (to go) to the wood in summer.
  13. When the teacher (to open) the door of the classroom, the students (to sit) at their desks.
  14. He (to get) up at seven o’clock yesterday.
  15. Father (to come) home at six o’clock yesterday.
  16. I (to read) a book at six o’clock yesterday.
  17. She (to fall) asleep at eleven o’clock yesterday.
  18. Mother (to drink) tea at eleven o’clock yesterday.
  19. The cat (to take) a piece of fish and then (to run) away.
  20. He (to read) a newspaper when I (to come) in.
  21. Yesterday I (to get) up at seven o’clock.
  22. The train (to arrive) at fifteen minutes to ten.
  23. He (to put) on his coat and cap, (to open) the door and (to go) out.
  24. At this time yesterday I (to sit)in the theatre.
  25. I (to go) to the university when I (to see) him.
  26. At this time yesterday we (to have) dinner.
  27. He (to write) a letter when I (to come) in.
  28. He (to make) a report when I (to leave) the meeting.
  29. Yesterday he (to write) a letter to his friend.
  30. When I (to look) at them, they (to smile) at me.
  31. What you (to do) at six o’clock yesterday?
  32. I (to go) to bed at half past eleven.
  33. Yesterday the lesson (to begin) at nine o’clock.
  34. When somebody (to knock) at the door, she (to argue) with her husband.
  35. When Pete (to jog) in the park in the morning, he (to lose) his phone.
  36. When the police (to take) the thief to the car, I (to go) to the cinema.
  37. He (to shave) when he (to hear) her scream.
  38. They (to go) to the wood last Sunday?
  39. When they (to sail) down the river they (to see) a little island.
  40. We (to work) the whole morning yesterday.
  41. Mother (to cook) dinner at three o’clock yesterday.
  42. She (to finish) cooking at four o’clock yesterday.
  43. At half past four yesterday we (to have) dinner.
  44. They (to translate) a difficult text yesterday.
  45. I (to open) the window at six o’clock yesterday.
  46. You (to go) to the cinema yesterday?
  47. I (not to see) Mike last week.
  48. When I (to open) the door, my friends (to sit) around the table.
  49. When you (to begin) doing your homework yesterday?
  50. We (to discuss) the latest news from three till four.