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Past Continuous Tense Exercises

In the past continuous tense, they are describing the continuity of action which is happening in the past.

There is no description of the time of the beginning of the action or events. Sentences of this tense describe the happening of some action in the past.

Let's understand this by few examples:

  • She was learning her lesson.
  • Some kids were laughing at the chief guest during his entire speech.

In the first sentence, it is clear that she was doing the action of learning in the past.

Similarly, the second sentence is showing that there was making noise in the past by children.

Uses of Past Continuous Tense

  • We use past continuous tense to express such event that was occurring in the past at a specific time.
    • At 10:00 p.m., I was watching television.
    • They were playing football at 9:00 a.m. this morning.
    • At 7:00 p.m., my mother was going to the temple.
  • To indicate that a longer action in the past was interrupted by a short action.
    For example,
    • I was watching television when he called.
    • She was sleeping last night when the thief stole her car.
  • Another important use of these tenses is in the combination of two sentences; simple past or past continuous tense.
    In these sentences, simple past or past indefinite talk about something that happened. On the other hand, past continuous shows the continuity of action.
    We use the past continuous for the action that was in progress. We use the simple past or past indefinite for the shorter action.
    • They were going home when we saw them.
    • It was raining when I got up this morning.
  • We often use when before the shorter action.
    For example,
    • We were going to Church when they saw us.
    • When I met him, he was going somewhere.
    • My head was aching when you rang the doorbell.

Rules for using to be 'Was/ Were'

In the past continuous tense, we use to be was or were before the main verb. Let's understand where to use was or were to were:

  • Was is used with the singular subjects such as I, he, she, it, this, that, Johnson, etc.
    • I was waiting for you in the morning.
    • Yesterday, he was visiting the National Park.
    • I went home because it was getting dark.
  • We use were with the plural subjects such as you, they, we, these, those, etc. It is used before the main verb of the sentence.
    • Yesterday, we were serving the guest.
    • These girls were taking admission in the sports academy.
    • Were you looking for me at night?

Structure for Past Continuous Tense

The structure for past continuous tense is pretty similar to present continuous. The only difference among these two is; the helping verb (to be).

In the present continuous, we use is, am are, while on the other hand in past continuous tense, We use was or were. Let's see the structure for each sentence in detail:

  • Formula for Declarative Sentences
    While making these sentences, we use the helping verb was or were with the Participle Form (verb including ing) of the verb.
    Subject + to be (was/ were) + First Form of Verb + ing + Object.
    Let's see the following examples:
    • I was helping him when he got injured.
    • We were sitting in the classroom quietly.
    • She was cleaning her home by herself.
  • Formula for Negative Sentences
    While making negative sentences in the past continuous tense, we add not or never after the helping verb (was or were).
    Subject + was/ were + not + first form of verb + ing + object.
    • The mechanic was not repairing the car properly.
    • John was not cooking the food when I came back.
    • The doctor was not diagnosing the real cause behind the disease.
  • The formula for Interrogative Sentences
    • The Yes/ No type Interrogative Sentences
      These sentences start with the helping verb (was/ were). In these sentences, we use the helping verb before the subject.
      To be (was/ were) + Subject + First Form of Verb + ing + Object + ?.
      For example:
      • Was I giving the wrong advice to my friend?
      • Were they going on a vacation?
      • Was she ragging the juniors today?
    • Informational type Interrogative Sentences
      These sentences start with the question word or WH word (what, why, whom, when, etc) and ask for some more details or information instead of yes/ no answers.
      Question Word + Was/ Were + Subject + First Form of Verb + ing + Object + ?.
      • What was she doing in the corner?
      • Why was she convincing her husband?
      • Where was the police catching the thieves?
    • Interrogative Negative Sentences
      In interrogative negative sentences, we use not or never just before the main verb of the sentence.
      • Were the people helping the injured man before the doctor came?
      • Why were you not taking medicines regularly?
      • Why was she not attending the classes?


Fill in the blanks with the past continuous tense form of the verb given in the brackets:

  • The car ________ (move) at a slow speed.
  • Robin and his friends ________ (sit) in the garden.
  • It ________ (rain) at five o'clock in the morning.
  • At that time I ________ (get) off the bus.
  • It ________ (get) dark.
  • Yesterday the magician _________ (show) a spectacle.
  • We ________ all ________ (sunbathe) on the lawn.
  • Why _________ he __________ (roam) in the market?
  • Why _______ the boys _______ (make) noise in the class?
  • Where _______ those students _______ (go)?
  • These students _______ not _______ (go) to see the carnival yesterday.
  • _______ the birds not ______ (sit) on the trees?
  • _______ the confectioner not _______ (make) delicious sweets?
  • _______ the players not ________ (participate) in the games?
  • Where _______ he ______ (waste) his time?
  • How many boys _________ (exercise) in the morning?


Change each of these sentences as instructed in the brackets:

  • They were going to college. ( change to interrogative)
  • She was decorating her room for a birthday party. (change to negative)
  • Was he not washing his new car? (change to negative)
  • They were eating their food. (change to interrogative)
  • The children were not doing their homework. (change to affirmative)
  • He was writing a letter. (change to interrogative negative)
  • Was the teacher beating that kid? (change to affirmative)
  • The children were splashing about in the puddles.
  • It was raining heavily. (change to interrogative)
  • Were the children swimming in the pool? (change to negative)


Fill in the blanks with the past continuous tense form and the past indefinite tense form of the verbs given in the bracket, as required:

  • John _____________ (play) the guitar when the electricity ________ (go) off.
  • Jack _____________ (study) when his father ________ (return) home.
  • You ___________ (write) a letter when the teacher _________ (come) in the class.
  • I __________ (watch) television when they _______ (arrive).
  • When the cat ________ (spill) the milk, I _________ (listen) to music.
  • The children __________ (draw) the painting when I _________ (come) back home.
  • The traffic ____________ (move) very slowly because the roads ____________ (be) waterlogged.
  • Sam ____________ (paint) his room when he __________ (get) a call.
  • I ___________ (eat) breakfast when she ________ (call) me.
  • What _______ he _______ (do) there alone before we ______ (reach)?

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