Past Progressive / Past Continuous


The past progressive (also called the past continuous) is formed by using the auxiliary verb to be and the gerund (-ing):

Subject                  Auxiliary                Gerund                Predicate

John                            was                    watching              his brother play soccer…

Sophie and I              were                   standing              at the bus stop…

You                              were                   having                  coffee…

I                                    was                    wearing                my favorite shirt…


How to Use:

We use the past continuous to talk about an action that was in progress (happening) when something else occurred in the past: (I was watching television when my mother called me.)  It is not common to use the past continuous alone in a sentence:  (I was watching television.)

Instead, we use the past progressive with some form of a time indicator:

  • an interrupting action (the past simple) –  We were taking our dog for a walk in the park when we saw your cousin, Carl.
  • a time phrase –  At 9:30 last night, Damien and Letisha were driving home from New York.
  • a concurrent action (also in the past progressive) – Bob was smoking a cigarette while Liliana was finishing her breakfast.

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