ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

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


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Muttface profile imageAUTHOR


      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 imageAUTHOR


      5 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


      5 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?


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)