Past Continuous Tense

We use the Past Continuous Tense to talk about an action that was in progress at a specific time in the past.

10pm now / sleeping

I was sleeping at 10:00 last night.

10:00 last night is a specific time in the past. The action in progress is sleeping.

I was shopping when you called

The action in progress is shopping. The specific time in the past is 'when you called'.

She was eating lunch when the rain started.

Use the Past Simple Tense for the specific time in the past if it is an action e.g. 'when you called', 'when the rain started'.

The specific time in the past can also be a relative time expression e.g. last week. Learn more about relative time expressions.

Making the Past Continuous Tense

+ I was sleeping at 10:00 last night. s='I' + be past + ving='sleeping'

- I wasn't sleeping at 10:00 last night. s='I' + be past + not + ving='sleeping'

? Were you sleeping at 10:00 last night? be past + s='you' + ving='sleeping'

For most verbs we add -ing to the end, but some have special spelling rules.

Spelling rules for -ing verbs

Pronunciation

I was sleeping at 10:00 last night.

I wasn't sleeping at 10:00 last night.

Were you sleeping at 10:00 last night?