Basic English: Simple Past Tense
October 14, 2017
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How can we make the past continuous? Firstly, check that you know how to make the past simple with ‘be’ (subject + was / were). Then just add verb-ing. Many Spoken English classes in Bhubaneswar are offering special tense charts.

FUNCTIONS OF THE PAST CONTINUOUS

The past continuous describes actions or events in a time before now, which began in the past and is still going on at the time of speaking. In other words, it expresses an unfinished or incomplete action in the past.

 It is used:

  • Often, to describe the background in a story written in the past tense, e.g. “The sun was shining and the birds were singing as the elephant came out of the jungle. The other animals were relaxing in the shade of the trees, but the elephant moved very quickly. She was looking for her baby, and she didn’t notice the hunter who was watching her through his binoculars. When the shot rang out, she was running towards the river…”
  • to describe an unfinished action that was interrupted by another event or action, e.g. “I was having a beautiful dream when the alarm clock rang.”
  • to express a change of mind: e.g. “I was going to spend the day at the beach but I’ve decided to get my homework done instead.”
  • with ‘wonder’, to make a very polite request: e.g. “I was wondering if you could baby-sit for me tonight.”

 



 FORMING THE PAST CONTINUOUS

The past continuous of any verb is composed of two parts : the past tense of the verb “to be” (was/were), and the base of the main verb +ing.

Subject            was/were base + ing

They       were        watching

Affirmative:

She          was        reading

Negative:

She         wasn’t      reading

Interrogative:

Was         she        reading?

Interrogative negative:

Wasn’t                she       reading?

 

 

 

Examples:

  1. Here’s the positive form:
  • I was sleeping
  • you were working
  • he was coming
  • she was reading ‘War and Peace’
  • it was raining
  • we were shopping
  • they were watching a film

 

Next, here’s the negative – it’s very easy, just add ‘not’:

  • I was not (wasn’t) sleeping
  • you were not (weren’t) working
  • he was not (wasn’t) coming
  • she was not (wasn’t) reading ‘War and Peace’
  • it was not (wasn’t) raining
  • we were not (weren’t) shopping
  • they were not (weren’t) watching a film

 

Next, to make a ‘yes / no’ question put ‘was / were’ in front of the subject:

  • Was I listening?
  • Were you working?
  • Was she working?
  • Was he living in Paris at the time?
  • Was it snowing when you arrived?
  • Were we eating?
  • Were they studying?

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