Continuous tenses in English – Past

Continuous verb forms in English

I want to give the basic concepts of how these grammatical forms are used by native English speakers.

The basics:

All continuous verb forms (sometimes called progressive or durative)

  • Present Continuous
  • Past Continuous
  • Present Perfect Continuous
  • Past Perfect Continuous
  • Future Continuous
  • Future Perfect Continuous

(and their Passive forms. Present continuous passive etc)

are usually concerned with an action that is taking place at a certain moment in time. We put more emphasis on the action itself rather than if it is completed or not.

 The Past Continuous is used to talk about an action at one moment in the past or the general situation.

  •  When I woke up yesterday I looked out of the window and I saw that the sun was shining, two people were sitting on a bench, they were eating a sandwich and some dogs were playing.

We don’t know when the sun started shining, or when the people went to sit on the bench, or when the dogs started playing. But we do know that, at the moment I looked out of my window, that was the situation.

  •  – What were you doing yesterday at 8.05pm?
  •  – I was walking home from work.

Was going to, for incompleted intentions:

  •  John was going to come for supper yesterday but he had to stay at work to prepare a meeting for today

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For PRESENT continuous look at this lesson