ReadingESL stories and readings in English for ESL learners


Past Continuous Verb Tense

The past continuous is used to talk about actions that happened at a specific time in the past.

It uses the past simple form of the verb to be as an auxiliary verb - was, were    LINK to more about the verb to be

This tense can only be used with 'dynamic' verbs.   Stative verbs do not take the continuous tense.  LINK to more about stative verbs


Form (what it looks like):

Affirmative statements Negative statements   Questions
subject + was/were + ing form add not between to be
and the present participle
  to be + subject + ing form
I was taking pictures during the concert.
You were taking pictures during the concert.
He was taking pictures during the concert.
She was taking pictures during the concert.

We were taking pictures during the concert.
They were taking pictures during the concert.
I wasn't taking pictures.
You weren't taking pictures.
He wasn't taking pictures.
She wasn't taking pictures.

We weren't taking pictures.
They weren't taking pictures.
a man taking pictures at a night time concert What were you doing during the concert?
I was taking pictures.

Was she taking pictures during the concert?
Yes, she was.
No, she wasn't.

Was they taking pictures during the concert?
Yes, they were.
No, they weren't.


To make the present participle

If the verb ends with.... then   example other verbs 
e drop the e
then add
a dozen yummy looking iced cupcakes
photo by Emma Fox

are you baking?

I am baking cupcakes.
 You are baking cupcakes.
She is baking cupcakes.

We are baking cupcakes.
They are baking cupcakes.
bake - baking
change - changine
come - coming
freeze - freezing
hope - hoping
leave - leaving
make - making
wave - waving
ie change the ie to y
then add
tying shoe laces tie

I am tying my shoe laces.
You are tying your laces.
He is tying his shoes.

We are tying our shoe laces.
They are tying their laces.
die - dying
lie - lying
one vowel + w, x or y add ing snow

Is it snowing

it's snowing.
it isn't snowing.
fix - fixing
mix - mixing

draw - drawing
mow - mowing
tow - towing

buy - buying
play - playing
say - saying
stay - staying
one vowel + one consonant
stressed last syllable
double the consonant
then add
a dolphin in a pool swim

The dolphin
is swimming.

I'm swimming.
You're swimming.
He's swimming.
It's swimming.

We're swimming.
They're swimming.
cut - cutting
fit - fitting
get - getting
let - letting
run - running
sit - sitting
swim - swimming
one vowel + one consonant
unstressed last syllable
just add ing a group of students talking to each other listen

Are you listening
to me?

I'm listening.
you aren't listening.
He's listening.

We're listening.
They're listening.
happen - happening
open - opening
remember - remembering
visit - visiting
all other letters just add ing a woman walking across a road walk, cross

What are you doing?
I am walking home.
I'm crossing
the street.

Are you walking too?

She's crossing the street.

We're walking together.
They're walking with us.
climb - climbing
feed - feeding
jog - jogging
march - marching
ski - skiing
talk - talking
think - thinking
feel - feeling
aim - aiming
rain - raining
jump - jumping
melt - melting
study - studying




1. for actions that were in progress at a certain time in the past

a child sleeping on a pillow
'peaceful sleep' by kenjipunzalan, from flickr
a bride and groom dancing at a wedding
'Amber and Jared's Wedding Dance' by kahala, flickr
I'm sorry I missed you call.  I was sleeping when you phoned this morning. They were still dancing at midnight.
They were dancing
when the clock struck twelve.


2. to talk about an activity in the past that was interrupted by another activity

three people having a picnic in the rain, under an umbrella
'picnic in the rain' by philipk, from flickr
eating dinner by candle light
'Power cut' by Birgitta Seeger, from flickr
a deer standing in the road
'Deer Crossing' by cindy47452, from flickr
We were having a picnic when it started to rain. Agathe and Hanna were eating dinner when the power went out. They were driving home when a deer crossed the road in front of their car.


3. to talk about two activities that were happening at the same time in the past

a woman texting on her phone    
Julie was texting her friends while she waited for her boyfriend.
While Julie was waiting for her boyfriend she phoned her friend Emily.