Past Progressive Tense: Learn English Grammar

We’re continuing today with our Learn English Grammar series. For a full list of the tenses so far, see the bottom of the post.
Today, it’s the turn of the past progressive tense. You might also know it as the past continuous tense.

Examples of Past Progressive Tense

  • You were speaking.
  • I was jumping.
  • He was sleeping.
  • She was diving.
  • They were joking.
  • We were travelling.

Past Progressive Tense: An Explanation.

We use the Past Progressive Tense to talk about something that happened in the past. It is different from the Past Simple Tense because it is used when talking about an ongoing activity. “He walked” is past simple because it denotes one action at one time in the past. “He was walking” is the past progressive tense because it was a continuous action at the time.
So Past Progressive refers to a continuous action. It also can refer to two actions in the past which occur at the same time. “He was running and singing.” “He was running while he was singing.” Those are examples.


Subject + was/were (past participle of ‘is’) + present participle (verb + ing)

Issues and Pronunciation: The Past Progressive tense.

A small issue that you should be aware of is that because there is no emphasis on “was,” it can sometimes be pronounced “wuz.”
Another issue with this tense is that people think that because it’s in the past, that the main verb should be a past participle. “He was walked.” This is incorrect, because we pass the past tense onto the auxiliary verb, “is.” The main verb remains in the present participle. “He was walking.”

So, if we wanted to change from simple past to past progressive, we’d add ‘is’ as a past participle, and then change the main verb to the present and add -ing.

“He sang” becomes “He was singing”

“You talked” becomes “You were talking”

“I laughed” becomes “I was laughing”

“They snored” becomes “They were snoring.”


Other Articles in this Series:

Past Simple Tense.
Past Progressive Tense (This article!)
Present Simple Tense.
Present Progressive Tense.


Language Bug

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