Past Continuous Tense



Past Continuous Tense :



Read the following paragraph.

The bridegroom’s party was expected any moment. The bride’s father was pacing nervously up and down the wedding hall. The mother was consulting with the elders in the family on the rituals to be observed. The bride’s brother was making sure he had the garland to welcome the groom while the bride’s friends were checking her make-up and dress to see that everything was perfect. The little children were rushing around playing, completely unaware of the tension that was mounting. Finally the party arrived. The guests were dancing. The band was playing the latest music. The groom was dismounting from the snow-white horse. The wedding was about to begin.

All the words that are in bold are in the past continuous tense. As you can see, the past continuous tense is used to talk about an action that was going on at some point of time in the past.

The past continuous tense is also used when we talk about two actions that went on at the same point of time in the past.

For example :

1. I was sleeping while you were studying.

The past continuous tense is also used when we talk about an action that was repeated frequently in the past.

For example :

1. When we were young, mother was always worrying about keeping us neat and clean.

The past continuous tense is also used when we talk about the gradual development of an action.

For example :

2. It was getting late and the film star had not yet arrived; the crowd was becoming restless.

3. The teacher was walking around the class while the students were answering the questions.

4. The gardener was very busy. He was weeding the grass while his helper was plucking all the dead leaves. They were getting ready for a visit from the President.

5. I decided to go home as the sky was getting dark.

6. Earlier, the workers were getting late due to the bad condition of the roads. But 7. now everyone is punctual.

8. The wind was blowing. The rain was falling. The roads were getting flooded when we returning from Mahabaleshwar.

9. ‘Someone was sleeping on my bed,’ said Papa Bear.

10. Hansel and Gretel were walking in the forest when they saw the yummy chocolate house.

11. The little boy was running towards the puppy when he heard the sound of the horn.

12. The cows were grazing the grass. The hens were pecking the ground for food. The bees were buzzing. It was a wonderful day.

13. Charlotte looked up and saw that the spider was spinning a new web.

Simple Past or Past Continuous?

The simple past tense is used when we are talking about an action that is complete while the past continuous tense is used when we are talking about an action that was going on for some time.

For example :

1. I was sleeping soundly, but when the alarm rang, I woke up immediately.

In the above sentence, the action of sleeping was going on for some time, while the actions of ringing and waking up are completed.

We use the simple past tense and the past continuous tense together in a sentence when we talk about an action that was going on when another action took place.

For example :

2. Grandmother was telling us a story when Birju walked into the room.

Non-action verbs generally do not take the past continuous tense.

For example :

I thought I heard the sound of glass breaking. (CORRECT)

I was thinking I heard the sound of glass breaking. (INCORRECT)

The old lady was standing by the river. She was waiting for the ferry to come. Finally the ferry arrived. The crowd rushed pushing the lady to the side. One little boy who was standing on the deck noticed the plight of the old lady. The ferry was about to start but the old lady was still hurrying towards it. The boy knew the old lady could not go to make it. He decided to help her. The ferry was blowing its horn. The driver was getting ready to remove the plank connecting the ferry to the shore when there was a loud splash. All the people rushed towards the railings. The little boy had jumped into the water and was swimming towards the shore. As the people watched, the boy reached the shore, climbed up on to the plank and helped the old lady who was still walking towards the ferry.



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