Past Continuous Tense Rules, Examples and Sentence Structure

Past Continuous Tense Rules and Examples with Sentence Structure. What is the past continuous tense (Past Progressive Tense)? Meaning and use of past continuous tense sentences with examples and rules, and exercises. Past continuous tense is formed by using the auxiliary verb was and were with -ing form of the verb. See the definition and sentences below;

What is Past Continuous Tense?

Past Continuous Tense always happens over time, so past continuous means that the action happened over time in the past. It tells us that the action was taking place in front of our eyes.


  • Robert was complaining about this error.
  • She was operating her computer when I went to her yesterday.
  • I was explaining this lesson.
  • You were not talking to your friends.
  • When I saw her, she was running on the road.
  • What were they doing last night?

In the above sentences, the auxiliary verbs ‘was’ and ‘were’ with -ing form of the verb have been used to form the past continuous tense. It expresses the past actions happening in front of our eyes.

Past Continuous Tense Rules, Examples and Sentence Structure
Past Continuous Tense Rules, Examples and Sentence Structure

In this post, you can learn the past continuous tense with examples, rules, and sentence structure. Read the complete tense so that you may learn it properly.

Past Continuous Tense Rules and Examples

Past Continuous Tense is to used to express the past events happening over time. It means that we use the past continuous tense (Past Progressive Tense to describe the past actions. These actions or events started before any time but hadn’t finished. Read the following examples of past continuous tense with rules and sentence structure.

Past Continuous Tense Rules:

Follow the following rules to make past continuous sentences.

Rule – 1 Auxiliary Verb ‘Was‘ is used with singular subjects like he, she, it, or noun with -ing form of the verb.

  • He was running.
  • She was driving.
  • It was raining.
  • I was thinking.
  • Johnny was playing.
  • The girl was singing.
  • George’s sister was sleeping.

Rule – 2 Auxiliary verb ‘Were‘ is used with the plural subjects we, you, they, or plural nouns with -ing form of the verb.

  • We were traveling.
  • You were leaving.
  • They were going.
  • Jack Andrew and I were talking.
  • The boys were running.
  • The children were crying.

Rule – 3 Follow the following sentence structure for simple statements of sentences.

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

Examples of Past Continuous Tense

  • I was playing at 5 o’clock.
  • She was living in Canada this time last year.
  • You were driving very fast yesterday.
  • You were not looking at the blackboard when the teacher saw you.
  • She was studying all night for that geography test. (This action happened over time in the past.)
  • Was your dad sleeping when she called? (I want to know if this action was happening over time when I called.)
  • No, My dad wasn’t sleeping when she called. (This action was not happening over time when you called.)
  • Nancy and Tom were bowling while they were sitting under the tree.
  • Were you waiting for me when I was looking at you?

Now it is clear that a simple past tense can be also used to show actions that happened over time in the past. But you should be careful using simple past tense and past continuous tense. You should learn when and where to use them. 

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Past Continuous Tense Sentences

Let’s learn how to make affirmative, negative interrogative, and interrogative negative sentences of past continuous tense. Each sentence follows a sentence structure. You can find the sentence structure and examples below;

Simple sentences or affirmative sentences

Simple sentences or affirmative sentences of past continuous tense follows the structure of the following sentences. It has been described above in the rules of past continuous tense.

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

Rule: Use the helping verb or auxiliary verb ‘was‘ with singular subjects and ‘were‘ with plural subjects with the base form of the verb with -ing.

Person Singular Plural
First I was We were
Second You were You were
Third He/She/It was They were
Nouns Jack was Jack and Jill were


  1. The professor was explaining to us about human immunity yesterday.
  2. The girls were singing a beautiful song at the party.
  3. The children were making a noise at the park.
  4. She was going to buy groceries from the store.
  5. You were telling a lie when your mother asked you the truth.
  6. He was trying to stop his car when his son called him.
  7. Nancy was watching T.V. when the teacher phoned her.
  8. While Thelma and Louise were driving down the highway, they noticed that a police car was following them.
  9. Marilyn and I were sleeping when the earthquake happened.
  10. Dad worked hard to get the job last year.

Negative Sentences or Statements

Negative Sentences or statements of simple past tense are very easy to make. To make Negative Sentences, follow the sentence structure and rules given below.

Rule: 1 Use “was not or wasn’t” with singular subjects like he, she, it, I, and singular nouns. 

  • He was not running.
  • She was not writing.
  • It was not raining.
  • I was not reading.
  • The man was not driving.
  • The elephant was not walking.
  • Johnson was waiting for me.
  • The team was playing.

Rule: 2Were‘ is used with plural subjects or nouns like you, we, they, etc.

Sentence Structure: Subject + was/were not + verb I + ing (base form) + object + other words


  1. The children were not playing in the evening.
  2. Rob was not using the phone last night.
  3. I wasn’t waiting for the train at the station yesterday.
  4. They were not talking to the principal when I reached.
  5. We were not traveling by bus in the evening.
  6. The teacher was not teaching the past continuous tense.
  7. He was not coming to the school when I phoned him.
  8. When she came out of the house, she came to know that it wasn’t raining outside.
  9. Adam and Freddie weren’t singing yesterday afternoon; they were watching the horror movie.
  10. I wasn’t listening to music when you knocked at the door.
  11. I wasn’t singing a song when she was watching TV.
  12. This man was not helping the child yesterday.
  13. He was not watering the plants in his garden.
  14. These boys were not helping the old women cross the road.
  15. George wasn’t waiting for the bus when I went there.

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Interrogative Sentences/Statements

Interrogative Sentences of the past continuous tense are formed in two ways; Yes-No Type and Wh-word Type Questions. The rules of making interrogative sentences of this tense are very easy. First of all, Learn to make yes-no type questions. Follow the steps given below:

Yes-No Type Questions

Write ‘was’ or ‘were’ according to the subject at the beginning of the sentence. Follow the structure given below.

Structure: Was/Were + subject + verb I + ing + object + other words + ?


  1. Was Roddy cooking the food?
  2. Were they playing cricket on the field when the coach called them?
  3. Was I waiting for someone when you saw me?
  4. Was she doing her homework while her mother was cooking?
  5. Were you waiting for the students this time?
  6. Were the children having breakfast when dad called them?
  7. Was the carpenter cutting the trees yesterday?
  8. Was your child facing his face while you were reading a book?
  9. Was my friend sleeping in my room at 10 PM?
  10. Was your mother making the cake while I was washing the dishes?
  11. Was was I telling you my plans when you met me in the office?
  12. Were the boys reading their question papers?
  13. Was she doing her homework when her father came?
  14. Were we wandering in the forest when we saw a lion?
  15. Was John was working at night when his friends were watching the television?

Wh-word Type Questions

Wh-word questions start with interrogative words (wh-words) like what, why, when, whom, whose, etc. Wh-word Type Questions of past continuous tense are made according to the following sentence structure and rules are given below;

Rules: While making the wh-word type questions, we put ‘wh-word’ at the beginning of the sentences. See the sentence structure;

Structure: Wh-word + was/were + subject + verb I + ing + object + other words +?


  1. What was he doing at six o’clock yesterday?
  2. Where are you sleeping when I called you?
  3. What was your mother doing while you were studying in the room?
  4. Where were you when they were dancing in the room?
  5. To whom were you inviting to your birthday party?
  6. Why was the gardener plucking the flowers when you came?
  7. Who was bullying him when the teacher saw them?
  8. Why were they crying while you were looking at them?
  9. When were you doing shopping yesterday?
  10. What was the man doing at 5 o’clock?
  11. Who was telling you to do this mischief?
  12. Where were you staying when your father met you?
  13. What was he doing when the doctor gave him medicine?
  14. Who was dancing with you on the stage when I saw you?
  15. When were you going to your city yesterday?

Interrogative Negative Sentences

Interrogative Negative Sentences are made by putting ‘not‘ after the subject. The sentence structure can tell you everything about how to make interrogative negative sentences.

Structure for yes-no type questions: Was/were + subject + not + verb I + ing + object + other words?


  1. Was the kid not playing with the toys last night?
  2. Was she not operating the machine?
  3. Were you not talking to your friends when she came?
  4. Was your teacher not checking your notebook yesterday?
  5. Was she not riding her bicycle while she was driving?
  6. Were you not trying to read the letter?
  7. Was I not searching your website yesterday?
  8. Were you not revising your lesson at night?

Structure for Wh-word Questions: Question word + was/were + subject + not + verb I + ing + object + other words + ?


  1. Why was the operating system not working last night?
  2. Who was not flying this aeroplane yesterday?
  3. What was he not giving to you when I came?
  4. Why were you not talking about the air pollution in the group discussion?
  5. Who was not helping you when you were in the problem?
  6. Why were they not coming to Australia when he phoned you?
  7. Where was she not playing yesterday?
  8. Whose clothes were you not wearing yesterday?

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Use of Past Continuous Tense

(A) Past continuous tense is used to describe an action that was happening at a point of time in the past or over a period of time in the past. It means that an action was in progress in the past.


  1. She was doing her work in the morning yesterday.
  2. Frederick was taking a bath at 5 o’clock in the evening.
  3. The boys were driving their cars fast.
  4. The teacher was explaining about the humidity in the morning.
  5. The students were learning their lessons this morning.
  6. Last night he was waiting for the train at the station.
  7. Grandfather was telling about his childhood.
  8. What were you doing in the morning?
  9. To whom were you talking on the phone last night?
  10. Who was calling you yesterday?

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(B) Past Continuous Tense is also used to express an action that was in progress when another action happened. The another action is written in the simple past tense.


  1. He was decorating his house when his friend came to him.
  2. Her mother was washing her clothes when dad called her.
  3. The sun was shining brightly when I got up in the morning.
  4. My child was sleeping when he switched on the television.
  5. Sofia was solving the question of mathematics when the teacher shouted at her.

(C) past continuous tense is used to express two actions happening at the same time in the past;


  1. Mother was cooking the food while the father was taking a bath.
  2. The child was playing with the wall while his dad was calling him.
  3. When Tom was doing his work, his mother was cleaning the floor.
  4. I was thinking of you while you’re were calling you.
  5. What was the teacher teaching you while you were looking at the girl?

(D) Past Continuous Tense  is used to talk about continuous increase or decrease of an action;


  1. The plants were growing faster and faster.
  2. It was getting darker and darker.
  3. Grandfather was getting older.
  4. He was becoming poorer and poorer.
  5. The water was flowing fast.

(E) Past continuous tense is used in the reported speech in place of present continuous tense.


1. She said to me, “I am cooking now.”
She told me that she was cooking then.

2. Jack said to the father, “I am running.”
Jack told the father that he was running.

3. She said, “They are making a noise”
She said that they were making a noise.

(F) past continuous tense in the reported speech change into past perfect continuous tense.


1. He said to his friend’ “I was working in the office yesterday.”

He told his friend that he had been working in the office the previous day.

2. They said to him, “Your father was traveling by train.”

They told him that his father had been traveling by train.

(G) In the passive voice, We change ‘was/were + verb I +ing‘ into ‘was/were being + verb III‘ as given below;

1. He was selling some books.
Some books were being sold by him.

2. They were playing cricket.
Cricket was being played by them.

3. John was reading a novel yesterday.
A novel was being read by John yesterday.

4. I was waiting for you.
You were being waited for by me.

5. The man was scolding his son.
His son was being scolded by the man.

Examples of Past Continuous Tense (Past Progressive Tense)

  1. He was learning French when I met him yesterday.
  2. My brother was calling me last night.
  3. The students of High School were preparing for the next term examination.
  4. When her brother was swimming, she was playing with her dog.
  5. Kate was working on the computer while I was using my smartphone.
  6. The kids were jumping when their parents saw them.
  7. When came to the store, the storekeeper was eating his lunch.
  8. That man was walking slowly on the road yesterday.
  9. The police were chasing a thief on the street last night.
  10. The children were watching the horror movie while their parents were having lunch.
  11. He was running on the road yesterday.
  12. They were playing cricket match in the park when the teacher called them.
  13. I was watching television when my father came into the room.
  14. My father was doing a job in the United State of America.
  15. These boys were teasing the girls.
  16. I was running on the road at two o’clock.
  17. The teacher was teaching us this lesson when you are sleeping.
  18. She was going to attend the party when I phoned him.
  19. I and he were searching the purse.
  20. This boy was opening his Store when the customer came to him.

Watch the video of past continuous tense for more details


In this post, we have described the past continuous tense (Past Progressive Tense) with rules and examples. Simple Past Tense and Past Continuous Tense are used to describe past actions. We must be careful while using both the tenses. We must remember their rules and adverbs used in the sentences of past continuous tense and simple past tense. If you are learning English Grammar, you can learn tense with examples from our website.

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