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Lesson 7.2

Past Continuous

El pasado continuo
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The past continuous tense is used for actions that occurred at a specific time in the past. Like the present continuous, it is formed using the verb “to be” as well as the verb+ing.

Grammatical Rules

Form

To form the past continuous we use the auxiliary verb “to be” as well as the verb+ing. The auxiliary verb “to be” is in the past simple tense, but keep in mind that “to be” is an irregular verb.

Subject Auxiliary (to be) Gerund
I, he, she, it was talking, eating, learning, doing, going
you, we, they were talking, eating, learning, doing, going

Structure

1. Affirmative Sentences

Subject + auxiliary verb (to be) + verb+ing.

Examples:

 I was talking.
 He was eating.
 They were learning.

2. Negative Sentences

Subject + auxiliary verb (to be) + “not” + verb+ing.

Examples:

 I was not [wasn’t] talking.
 He was not [wasn’t] eating.
 They were not [weren’t] learning.

3. Interrogative Sentences

Auxiliary verb (to be) + subject + verb+ing?

Examples:

 Were you talking?
 Was he eating?
 Were they learning?

Uses

1. The past continuous is used for an action in progress in the past and that was interrupted. The action that caused the interruption is in the past simple. “When” and “while” signal the use of the past simple and past continuous. In general, we use the past simple directly after “when” and the past continuous after “while”.

Examples:

 Jose called while I was watching the news.
 He was walking to work when he fell.
 Was it raining when you left?

2. We use the past continuous to talk about actions or events that happened at a specific time in the past.

Examples:

 Paula wasn’t living in Spain in 2005.
 We were still working at 10 o’clock last night.

3. The past continuous is used for two actions that were occurring simultaneously in the past.

Examples:

 My son was reading while I was cooking.
 They were talking very loudly while we were trying to watch the movie.

Note: As we have seen, there are some verbs which may not be used in the continuous tenses. Further explanation, as well as a list of such verbs that cannot be used in the continuous tenses can be found in the lesson on the continuous verb tenses.

Note: As we have seen, there are some verbs which may not be used in the continuous tenses. Further explanation, as well as a list of such verbs that cannot be used in the continuous tenses can be found in the lesson on the continuous verb tenses.

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