Past continuous (I was doing)

Learn and practise the past continuous in English.

A Study this example:

past continuous

B I was doing something = I was in the middle of doing it at a certain time. The action or situation started before this time, but had not finished:

past continuous

  • This time last year I was living in Hong Kong.
  • What were you doing at 10 o’clock last night?
  • I waved to Helen, but she wasn’t looking.
C Compare I was doing (past continuous) and I did (past simple):

past continuous vs past simple

D You can say that something happened (past simple) in the middle of something else (past continuous):

  • Matt phoned while we were having dinner.
  • It was raining when I got up.
  • I saw you in the park yesterday. You were sitting on the grass and reading a book.
  • I hurt my back while I was working in the garden.

But we use the past simple to say that one thing happened after another:

  • I was walking along the road when I saw Dan. So I stopped, and we talked for a while.

past continuous vs past simple

Some verbs (for example, know and want) are not normally used in continuous forms (is + -ing, was + -ing etc.).

  • We were good friends. We knew each other well. (not we were knowing)
  • I was enjoying the party, but Chris wanted to go home. (not was wanting)