The Past Continuous tense or Past Progressive tense indicates continuing action, something that was happening, going on, at some point in the past. The actions can be interruped by something or can be happening at the same time
The followings situations used Past Continuous Tense
1) Duration in the past
We use the Past Continuous to talk about actions or situations that lasted for some time in the past, and whose duration time is unknown or unimportant.
- I was watching TV yesterday in the evening.
- She was sleeping on the couch.
- The dog was barking.
2) Interrupted actions in progress
The Past Continuous is often used when one action in progress is interruped by another action in the past. We usually use when or while to link these two sentences.
- I was talking with James when the telephone rang.
- While Angelica was playing tennis, the plane crashed .
- When Bob was painting windows, it started raining
- What were you doing while you were waiting?
- ‘I was washing the car while my wife was cleaning the ho
3) Two activities of similar duration that were going on in parallel.
We also use this tense to talk about two or more activities happening at the same. We usually use when or while to link the two sentences.
- I was watching TV and Barbara was reading a book.
- The family was eating the dinner and talking.
- When Bob was painting windows, Mary was working in the kitchen.
4) Timid / polite questions
If we want to ask a polite question, we can use the Past Continuous.
- I was wondering if you could open the window.
- I was thinking you might help me with this problem.
Even though the sentences have a Past Continuous form, they refer to the present moment. Their meaning is similar to the “could you” sentences, but they are more polite.
Remember that you can also express irritation over somebody or something in the past.
- She was always coming late for dinner
6) Narrative in past tense.
- It was raining. The water was pouring down in sheets and the passersby were getting wetter with every step, despite their umbrellas.
It is also used, in sentences with when or while, to refer to an action which was taking place
when a shorter, brief action took place.
● Yesterday evening, while I was watching television, the phone rang.
● When my husband arrived home yesterday evening, I was cooking dinner.
Remember not to use the past continuous tense with non-action verbs like seem and know. These verbs should use the simple past.
I was knowing my neighbour quite well. – wrong
I knew my neighbour quite well.
Remember that so called state verbs cannot be used in continuous tense forms. Example : ‘I was knowing knew Samantha very well’