The Past Continuous Tense in English

The past continuous tense is most often used for actions happening at some time in the past.


When / While / As / All night yesterday / This time yesterday / Yesterday evening / Yesterday / Last night, etc.

Structure of the Past Continuous Tense

Positive Form: Subject + Be ( was / were ) + (Verb+ing)


  • He was playing
  • She was playing
  • It was playing
  • I was playing
  • You were playing
  • We were playing
  • They were playing

Negative Form: Subject + Be ( was / were ) + Not + (Verb+ing)


  • He was not (wasn’t) playing
  • She was not (wasn’t) playing
  • It was not (wasn’t) playing
  • I was not (wasn’t) playing
  • You were not (weren’t) playing
  • We were not (weren’t) playing
  • They were not (weren’t) playing

Question Form(?) : Be ( was / were ) + Subject + (Verb+ing)


  • Was he playing
  • Was she playing
  • Was it playing
  • Was I playing
  • Were you playing
  • Were we playing
  • Were they playing

Negative Question Form(?): Be ( was / were ) + Not + Subject + (Verb+ing)


  • Was not ( Wasn’t ) he playing
  • Was not ( Wasn’t ) she playing
  • Was not ( Wasn’t ) it playing
  • Was not ( Wasn’t ) I playing
  • Were not ( Weren’t ) you playing
  • Were not ( Weren’t ) we playing
  • Were not ( Weren’t ) they playing

Short Answer Forms :

-Yes + Subject + Be ( was / were )

  • Yes, he was.
  • Yes, she was.
  • Yes, it was.
  • Yes, I was.
  • Yes, you were.
  • Yes, we were.
  • Yes, they were.

-No + Subject + Be ( was / were ) + Not

  • No, he was not (wasn’t).
  • No, she was not (wasn’t).
  • No, it was not (wasn’t).
  • No, I was not (wasn’t).
  • No, you were not (weren’t)
  • No, we were not (weren’t).
  • No, they were not (weren’t).

Past Continuous Tense Examples

  • At this time last month, I was lying on the beach in Monaco.
  • My father was working in the garden so he didn’t hear the telephone when I called him yesterday.
  • I had my car fixed because it wasn’t working properly.
  • Sorry, I wasn’t listening. Can you say it again please?
  • What were you doing at 10 o’clock yesterday?
  • Why were you talking to Sarah when I saw you in school yesterday?
  • I went to lunch too early. The food was still being cooked. (passive)
  • You phoned while I was having a bath.
  • When I got home yesterday, a cat was sitting on the roof.
  • It started to rain just as we were getting ready to have our picnic.
  • The girl was standing on the table when the principal came into the room.
  • I saw Sarah in town yesterday. She was wearing a red dress and a black hat!
  • When I went to bed last night the sun was already beginning to rise.
  • It was lucky we weren’t sitting under that tree when the lightning hit.
  • What were you doing when the lights went off last night?
  • Were you watching me when I showed you how to do it?
  • How fast was he driving when he had the accident?

See Also
Present Perfect Continuous 
Past Simple Tense