A. Study this example situation:
Yesterday Karen and Jim played tennis. They began at 10 o’clock and finished at 11.30. So, at 10.30 they were playing tennis.
They were playing = ‘they were in the middle of playing’. They had not finished playing.
Was/were -ing is the past continuous:
B. We use the past continuous to say that somebody was in the middle of doing something at a certain time.
The action or situation had already started before this time but had not finished:
|I started doing||I was doing||I finished doing|
- This time last year I was living in Brazil.
- What were you doing at 10 o’clock last night?
- I waved to her but she wasn’t looking.
C. Compare the past continuous (I was doing) and past simple (I did):
|Past continuous (in the middle of an action)
|| Past simple (complete action)
D. We often use the past simple and the past continuous together to say that something happened in the middle of something else:
- Tom burnt his hand when he was cooking the dinner.
- I saw you in the park yesterday. You were sitting on the grass and reading a book.
- While I was working in the garden, I hurt my back.
But we use the past simple to say that one thing happened after another:
- I was walking along the road when I saw Dave. So I stopped and we had a chat.
|When Karen arrived, we were having dinner.
(= We had already started dinner before Karen arrived.)
|When Karen arrived, we had dinner.
(= First Karen arrived and then we had dinner.)
E. There are some verbs (for example, know/want/believe) that are not normally used in the continuous
- We were good friends. We knew each other well. (NOT «we were knowing»)
- I was enjoying the party but Chris wanted to go home. (NOT «was wanting»)
6.1 What were you doing at the following times? Write one sentence as in the examples.
The past continuous is not always necessary (see the second example).
- (at 8 o’clock yesterday evening) __I was having dinner with some friends_
- (at 5 o’clock last Saturday) _I was on a train on my way to London
- (at 10.15 yesterday morning) __________________________________________________
- (at 4.30 this morning) _________________________________________________________
- (at 7.45 yesterday evening) ____________________________________________________
- (half an hour ago)_____________________________________________________________
6.2 Use your own ideas to complete these sentences. Use the past continuous.
- Tom burnt his hand while he _was cooking the dinner.
- The doorbell rang while I ___________________________________________
- We saw an accident while we ________________________________________
- Mary fell asleep while she___________________________________________
- The television was on but nobody ____________________________________
6.3 Put the verbs into the correct form, past continuous or past simple.
- I___________(see) Sue in town yesterday but she_______________ (not/see) me. She _______________ (look) the other way.
- I________________ (meet) Tom and Ann at the airport a few weeks ago. They ____________ (go) to Berlin and I_____________ (go) to Madrid We ________________ (have) a (wait) for our flights.
- I__________ (cycle) home yesterday when suddenly a. man ___________ (step) out into the road in front of me. I __________ (go) quite fast but luckily I_________ chat while we ______________ (manage) to stop in time and ___________ (not/hit) him.
6.4 Put the verbs into the correct form, past continuous or past simple.
- Jane __ _____________________ (wait) for me when I _ _____________________ (arrive).
- ‘What_________________________ (you/do) this time yesterday?’ T was asleep.’
- ‘_________________________ (you/go) out last night?’ ‘No, I was too tired.’
- Was Carol at the party last night?’ ‘Yes, she’______________________ (wear) a really nice dress.’
- How fast____________________ (you/drive) when the accident___________________ (happen)?
- John ____________________ (take) a photograph of me while I______________________ (not/look).
- We were in a very difficult position. We _______________________ (not/know) what to do.
- I haven’t seen Alan for ages. When I last_________________________ (see) him, he _________________________ (try) to find a job in London.
- I _____________________ (walk) along the street when suddenly I______________________ (hear) footsteps behind me. Somebody ______________________ (follow) me’. I was frightened and I______________________ (start) to run.
- When I was young, I_________________________ (want) to be a bus driver.