Past Continuous An explanation of the past continuous

The past continuous is formed from the past tense of be with the -ing form of the verb:

We use the past continuous to talk about the past:

for something which continued before and after another action:

The children were doing their homework when I got home.


I got home. The children did their homework.

The children did their homework when I got home.

As I was watching television the telephone rang.

This use of the past continuous is very common at the beginning of a story:

The other day I was waiting for a bus when …

Last week as I was driving to work …

for something that happened before and after a particular time:

It was eight o’clock. I was writing a letter.


At eight o’clock I wrote some letters.

In July she was working in McDonald’s.

.to show that something continued for some time:

My head was aching.

Everyone was shouting.

for something that was happening again and again:

I was practising every day, three times a day.

They were meeting secretly after school.

They were always quarrelling.

with verbs which show change or growth:

The children were growing up quickly.

Her English was improving.

My hair was going grey.

The town was changing quickly.

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