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English for Beginners: Lesson 7 – Past Continuous vs Past Simple.

  • September 21, 2021
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So what is the secret of the past continuous tense? We construct this tense as we did it with present continuous tense.

We take the verb to be in the needed form (was/were) and add ing to the main verb. The difference here is in the verb to be: we use the past indefinite form of the verb to be instead of the present indefinite form.

The meaning remains the same: we were doing something from one definite moment in the past until another definite moment in past. We made an action in a continuous manner. For example, “Yesterday I was doing my homework when a bird flew in through the window.” Here, we suppose that the person was undertaking something when something else happened.

That was easy, wasn’t it?

Now let’s discover the difference between the past indefinite and past continuous tenses.

Past indefinite shows the action that happened once in the past, and we can forget about it. These examples describe some events that happened and are now finished:

I did my homework yesterday and had a lot of fun in the evening. You slept the whole weekend? How do you feel now?
We did our job; we can leave now. She said this so quietly that nobody heard her.
Does it really matter if I got up at 6 am or at 6 pm? I ate a lot of salad the day before yesterday, but yesterday I ate only meat. I can’t be called a vegetarian yet.

When we talk about some longer, ongoing action in the past, we usually place more emphasis on the fact that it continued for a while, or on how long it continued:

I was learning the poem yesterday afternoon. Today I don’t remember a single word.
Yesterday I came home at 6 pm. Later, I was watching TV when I fell asleep.
Yesterday, Bob was looking at the window as if he was waiting for someone to come. Somebody knocked at the door. Bob opened it.
They were discussing their new project all morning.
Sorry, I was listening to you but I got distracted. Could you please repeat it?
Hello, guys! Where were you? I was looking for you!

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