The Past Continuous
The Past Continuous is used for ongoing actions at a specified time. This can be:
• an action in the past that extends over a longer period of time: Two hours later we were still waiting for the bus.
• two actions in the past that run simultaneously and last for a while: My colleague was meeting the customer while I was talking on the phone.
• a first action that takes place, and which is then interrupted by a new (second) action: While I was talking to a customer on the phone, a new email came in.
The Past Continuous can also be used for habitual actions in the past
• usually with adverbs like: all the time, always, constantly, forever, frequently, occasionally, often, perpetually, rarely, seldom, sometimes, usually ... Before I found this website, I was constantly making spelling mistakes.
The Past Continuous can also be used for the set up for a story
It was a beautiful morning. The birds were singing and the flowers were gently swaying in the wind.
• in affirmative sentences: subject + "was" or "were" + past participle → I was reading a book the whole morning.
• in negative sentences: subject + "was" or "were" + not + past participle → I was not listening to the speaker.
• in positive questions: [Question word +] "was" or "were" + subject + past participle. → Where was he looking all this time?
• in negative questions: [Question word +] "was" or "were" + subject [+ not] + past participle.
a) "was" or "were" + subject + not + past participle → Were you not listening to the speaker?
b) "wasn't" or "weren't" + subject + past participle → Weren't you listening to the speaker?