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Past Continuous vs Past Simple. English for Beginners, Lesson 7

  • January 5, 2016
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I guess you are ready for more grammar today.

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 Past Indefinite in the needed form (was/were) and add the main verb +ing. 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 past till another definite moment in past. We made an action in a continuous manner.

For example, “Yesterday I was doing my homework.”

Here we suppose that the person did nothing except homework, or he/she did not want to say anything else, or he/she just wanted to emphasize his/her hard work at school.

That is easy, isn’t it?Lesson 7

Now let’s discover the difference between Past Indefinite and Past Continuous tenses.

Past Indefinite shows the action that happened once in the past, and we could forget about it.

  • “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 in such a low tone that nobody heard her.”
  • “Does it really matter if I got up at 6 am or at 6 pm?” It may be important to the speaker, but not for the result: the fact of getting up.
  • “I ate a lot of salad the day before yesterday, and yesterday I ate only meat. I can’t be called vegetarian yet.”

We describe some event that happened before and doesn’t obligatory have the effect today.

While when we talk about some long or annoying action in the past, we usually pay more attention on its durability than on the result.

  • “I was learning the poem yesterday. Today I don’t remember a single word.” This is a very sad story, but the student wants to tell us that he/she tried, made a lot of efforts and so on.
  • “Yesterday I came home at 6 pm. At home, I was watching TV.” We marked one finished action (result) “I came home.”, and one continued action (process) “I was watching.
  • “Yesterday Bob was looking at the window as if he was waiting for someone to come.” “Somebody knocked at the door. Bob opened and stared at the newcomer.”
  • “They were discussing their new project at 2.30.” vs “They discussed the project from 2 o’clock until 4.30.”
  • “Sorry, I was listening to you but did not hear. Could you please repeat?”
  • “Hello, guys! Where were you? I was looking for you!”

Find out homework for this lesson here.

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