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Past Continuous for Interrupted Action

Structure and Usage

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Past Continuous for Interrupted Action
Use the past continuous to express what was happening when something important happened. This form is almost always used with the time clause '... when xyz happened'. It is also possible to use this form with '... while something was happening' to express two past actions that were occurring simultaneously.

This tense is often used with the following time expressions:

... when xyz happened
... while xyz was happening.

Basic Construction

Positive

Subject + was / were + verb + ing + object(s) + time Expression

Sharon was watching TV when she received the telephone call.

Negative

Subject + was / were + not (wasn't, weren't) + verb + ing + object(s) + time Expression

We weren't doing anything important when you arrived.

Question

(Question Word) + was / were + subject + verb + ing + object(s) + time Expression

What were you doing when Tom gave you the bad news?

Take this past simple quiz to check your understanding.

If you are a teacher, use this guide on how to teach the past simple tense for more help.

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