Part H. Past Continuous or Simple Past

Part H. Past Continuous or Simple Past

talk about what they did in the last week. This immediately teaches you the function.

  • This tense has two uses:
  • to describe actions in the past

I was studying for a test last night.
This time last year, I was rehearsing for a play.

  • and to emphasize their continuous nature.

I was working all day.
The wind was blowing all night.

  • In the above sentences, the speaker is focused on the length of time and on what happened during that time. This leads us to the question of when duration is important. There may be a hidden, unsaid meaning when using the continuous form. Consider the following:


  • I was waiting for you all night. (I was worried, bored, and angry.)
  • I was working all day. (I am tired.)
  • I was having a great time. (I am not now.)

Write out four sentences to show that duration is important.  Remember, your sentence may reveal a concealed (hidden) feeling.

I was watching the children all evening.
I was chatting with my friends all day.
The neighbours were fighting most of the night.
The students were studying for the exam all weekend.

Exercise 6: Complete the passage using the simple past or the past continuous.

Yesterday, I  ______ (work) in the library. The sun  ______ (shine) through the window. Birds  ______ (sing) in the trees. Other students  ______ (read) intently. We all  ______ (have) important exams the next day. Suddenly, a student  ______ (take) a stick from his pocket. He told us that it  ______ (be) a magic learning stick. We all  ______ (think) that he  ______ (joke). He  ______ (wave) the stick and  ______ (read) aloud from an old book, when there  ______ (be) a flash of light. I  ______ (feel) different. I  ______ (glance) at my book and found that I  ______ (remember) everything that it contained. We all  ______ (ask) the student how the magic learning stick worked, but he said that it  ______ (be) a secret. He  ______ (leave) the library and  ______ (walk) into the sunlight. We  ______ (have) a party and celebrated. Unfortunately, the next day, we  ______ (go) to the exam and  ______ (remember) nothing.