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The Past Continuous Exercises - ESL

Updated on November 20, 2013

The Past Continuous/Past Progressive

We use this tense to refer to an action that was in progress at some point in the past. For example:

  1. What were you doing yesterday when I called?
  2. I was having a shower.

In English we often use the past continuous and the past simple together. This is known as the interrupted past. You use it to show that a short action occurred during a longer action. The past continuous describes the longer action; the past simple describes the shorter action. The short action ‘interrupts’ the long action. For example:

  • I was running on the beach when my phone fell out of my pocket.


The past continuous also describes a gradual development of an event.

  • The crowd was becoming more agitated.

It is used to ‘set the scene’ in a story.

  • Fred was singing to himself in the kitchen.

Remember! We don’t normally use the continuous for state verbs.

The Interrupted Past


The Past Continuous/Past Progressive

I was exercising
I was not exercising
Was I exercising?
You were exercising
You were not exercising
Were you exercising?
He/She/It was exercising
He/She/It was not exercising
Was he/she/it exercising?
We were exercising
We were not exercising
Were we exercising?
They were exercising
They were not exercising
Were they exercising?
You can contract the verb: Was not/ Wasn't - Were not / Weren't


Create sentences with these words using the past continuous.

  1. He/drink/coffee.
  2. We/eat/cakes.
  3. I/empty/the rubbish.
  4. She/listen/to the radio.
  5. You/not watch/T.V.
  6. She/not feel/well.
  7. It/not swim/near the boat.
  8. They/work?
  9. I/study/hard?
  10. You/walk/on the wall?

Put these sentences into the correct form using the past continuous or the past simple.

  1. (I/walk) along the road when (a car/crash) into the wall.
  2. (Janice/fill) the car with fuel when (the thieves/rob) the petrol station.
  3. (It/rain) when (I/wake) this morning.
  4. (He/not study) when (I/see) him.
  5. While (we/sleep) the (tent/fall) down.
  6. (My parents/wait) when (we/get off) the train.
  7. (Phil/clean) the car when the (postman/arrive).
  8. (You/play) computer games when (we/call) round?
  9. (They/not cycle) when (I/pass) them on the road.
  10. (You/listen) to what (she/say)?

Put the sentences into the correct order

  1. Kimberly /chess / a / noise. /was /when / she/ playing / heard
  2. I /cooking /As /was/ dinner /I /the /my / finger./ burnt
  3. the/ We /having/ were/ when/ breakfast / doorbell /rang.
  4. They/ the /garden /were/ sitting/ in /plane /flew /as/ the/ past.
  5. leg /while/ I /broke /was/ I /playing /my /hockey.

Past Progressive



Exercise 1

  1. He was drinking coffee.
  2. We were eating cakes.
  3. I was emptying the rubbish.
  4. She was listening to the radio.
  5. You weren’t watching T.V.
  6. She wasn’t feeling well.
  7. It wasn’t swimming near the boat.
  8. Were they working?
  9. Was I studying hard?
  10. Were you walking on the wall?

Exercise 2

  1. I was walking along the road when a car crashed into the wall.
  2. Janice was filling the car with fuel when the thieves robbed the petrol station.
  3. It was raining when I woke up this morning.
  4. He wasn’t studying when I saw him.
  5. While we were sleeping the tent fell down.
  6. My parents were waiting when we got off the train.
  7. Phil was cleaning the car when the postman arrived.
  8. Were you playing computer games when we called round?
  9. They weren’t cycling when I passed them on the road.
  10. Were you listening to what she said?

Exercise 3

  1. Kimberly was playing chess when she heard a noise.
  2. As I was cooking the dinner I burnt my finger.
  3. We were having breakfast when the doorbell rang.
  4. They were sitting in the garden as the plane flew past.
  5. I broke my leg while I was playing hockey.

© 2013 Muttface


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    • Muttface profile image

      Muttface 4 years ago from Portugal

      Thanks for reading Asif Hashim!

    • profile image

      asif hashim 4 years ago

      its good, i love this message. Thanks.

    • Muttface profile image

      Muttface 4 years ago from Portugal

      Hi there C-G, thanks for reading!

      Pronunciation and stress, yes, but only as choral exercises. I never delve too deeply into phonics either. It was a small portion of the course I did and it seemed interesting, but something that would take up a lot more time to understand fully. Any free time I have, I prefer to look for games and fun activities to keep the students happy.

    • profile image

      calculus-geometry 4 years ago

      As an ESL teacher, do you teach your students the subtler aspects fluent speaking, like correct pronunciation, stress, patterns of intonation, pitch, and facial expressions? Or is that too difficult to teach?