Home | Learn Spanish | Learn English

LEARN ENGLISH PAST CONTINUOUS VERBS

To form the past continuous tense we need the past simple of the verb "to be" and another verb ending in "-ing".

Example

We were studying English when she arrived. (Estábamos estudiando inglés cuando ella llegó)

Some verbs have certain spelling changes when adding "-ing": If the verb ends in "-e" we will drop the "e" and then we will add "-ing".

Example

I dance in the disco. (Bailo en la discoteca)

I was dancing in the disco. (Estaba bailando en la discoteca)

If the verb consists of only one syllable and the last three letters are: consonant plus vowel plus consonant, we will double the last consonant and then add "-ing".

Example

I plan my weekend ahead. (Planeo el fin de semana que viene)

I was planning my weekend ahead. (Estaba planeando el próximo fin de semana)

For the negative form we use "not" after the verb "to be".

Example

They were not (weren't) eating their dinner when I arrived. (No estaban cenando cuando llegué)

For the interrogative form we place the verb "to be" in front of the person.

Example

Were you studying yesterday at 7.00 pm? (¿Estabas estudiando ayer a las siete de la tarde?)

SOME GENERAL USES

We use the past continuous to express actions that were temporary in the past. They could have been taking place for a short or a long period of time, but in any case they were not finished.

Example

I was living in London at that time. (Yo estaba viviendo en Londres por entonces)

He was working in a bar at that time. (Él estaba trabajando en un bar por aquel tiempo)

She was eating in that restaurant on Saturday. (Ella estaba comiendo en aquel restaurante el sábado)

Another use of the past continuous is to express the interruption of a progressive action in the past. Normally this interruption is expressed with the verb in its past simple tense form.

Example

I was listening to music when you phoned. (Estaba escuchando música cuando llamaste)

In this example, the continuous action in the past "was listening to music" is interrupted by the action "you phoned" and, as we can see in the example, this last action is expressed in past simple.

The past continuous is also used to express two simultaneous continuous actions in the past.

Example

Was he phoning you when you were listening to music? (¿Te estaba él llamando por teléfono cuando estabas escuchando música?)

She was doing the washing-up while he was cooking. (Ella estaba fregando los platos mientras él estaba cocinando)

Lets us conjugate a verb as an example. We are going to take the verb "to study".

Positive

Negative

Question

I was studying wasn't studying Was I studying?
You were studying weren't studying Were you studying?
He was studying wasn't studying Was he studying?
She was studying wasn't studying Was she studying?
It was studying wasn't studying Was it studying?
We were studying weren't studying Were we studying?
You (all) were studying weren't studying Were you studying?
They were studying weren't studying Were they studying?