What’s the Difference? Simple Past and Past Continuous

What’s the Difference? Simple Past and Past Continuous

Past Simple and Past Continuous are two basic but very important tenses to form simple sentences as well as useful in reading comprehension. Knowing these two tenses will help you easily understand and quickly answer questions related to the past tense.
To learn well the Past Simple Tense, you must master the basic irregular verbs table as well as how to add the ending “-ing” to verbs in the Past Continuous Tense.

You might also like: ALL the English Grammar Basics You Need

what is Simple Past and Past Continuous Tense

Structure of Simple Past vs Past Continuous Tense

The structure of the past simple vs past continuous is quite simple:

Simple Past and Past Continuous Difference

Form of Past Simple TenseForm of Past Continuous Tense
1. To be:
(+) S + was/were + Adj/ Noun + O
I, He, She, It, N + Was
You, we, they, N + Were
(-) Subject + was/ were + not + O
Was not = wasn’t
Were not = weren’t
(?) Were/ was + Subject + O?
2. Verbs
(+) S + Past simple + O
(-) Subject + did not + Bare infinitive + O
Did not = didn’t
(?) Did + Subject + Bare infinitive + O ?
(+) S + was/were + V_ing + O
(-) S + was/were + not + V_ing + O
(?) Was/were + S + V_ing + O?

See More: Past Simple Tense – English Grammar Tenses

How to use Simple Past and Past Continuous

Simple Past Past Continuous
1. Describes an action that started and ended completely in the past.
+ Tom went to Paris last summer.
+ My mother left this city two years ago.
+ He died in 1980.
2. Describe actions that happened consecutively in the past.
+ He came home, switched on the laptop, and checked his email.
3. Used in some of the following constructs:
+ I used to ride a bicycle to school.
+ I was eating dinner when he came.
+ If I were you, I wouldn’t get engaged to him.
1. Describe an action that is happening at a time
point in the past.

+ What were you doing at 8:30 last night?
2. Describe an action that was happening (in the past) when another action was interrupted.
(The action in progress uses the past continuous, the intervening action uses the simple past)
+ When I came yesterday, he was sleeping.
+ What was she doing when you saw her?
3. Describe actions that happened at the same time in the past.
+ Yesterday, I was cooking while my sister was washing the dishes.

Signal words for the Simple Past and Past Continuous

We need to be sure of the following typical adverbs, which are clues in a sentence to determine the standard tense of that sentence:

Simple Past Past Continuous
+ last night/ year/month+ at this time last night
+ yesterday+ at this moment last year
+ … ago+ at 8 p.m. yesterday–
+ in + year (Example: 2021)+ while…

See More: Past Continuous Tense – English Grammar Tenses

Simple Past vs Past Continuous Exercise

Exercises

1: I………………..(be) hungry.

2: You………………..(be) in Australia last year.

3: She………………..(be) in London last week.

4: The cat………………..(be) on the roof.

5: We………………..(study) a very hard lesson the day before yesterday.

6: When I………………..(arrive) at his house, he still………………..(sleep).

7: She………………..(water) the flowers in her garden while her next-door neighbor………………..(chat) with her over the fence.

8: As we………………..(cross) the street, we………………..(see) an accident.

9: The bell………………..(ring) while Tom………………..(take) a bath.

10: She………………..(hear) a noise and………………..(get) out of bed when the door………………..(open).

11: The children………………..(play) football when their mother………………..(come) back.

12: Who………………..(be) the man that you………………..(talk) to this morning?

13: I………………..(see) him at the gate when I………………..(come) in.

14: We………………..(wait) for the bus when he………………..(pass) by in his car and………………..(offer) us a lift.

15: I………………..(be) very tired because I………………..(work) all day yesterday.

16: When the students………………..(hear) the bell, they………………..(get up) and ………………..(leave).

17: We (drive)………………..around the parking lot for 20 minutes to find a parking space.

18: She (get)………………..married last year?

19: While Tom………………..(play) the piano, his mother was doing the washing-up.

20: I last………………..(see) her at her house two months ago.

Answers

1: I was (be) hungry.

2: You were (be) in Australia last year.

3: She was (be) in London last week.

4: The cat was (be) on the roof.

5: We studied (study) a very hard lesson the day before yesterday.

6: When I arrived (arrive) at his house, he still was sleeping (sleep).

7: She was watering (water) the flowers in her garden while her next-door neighbor was chatting (chat) with her over the fence.

8: As we were crossing (cross) the street, we saw (see) an accident.

9: The bell rang (ring) while Tom was taking (take) a bath.

10: She heard (hear) a noise and got (get) out of bed when the door opened (open).

11: The children were playing (play) football when their mother came (come) back.

12: Who was (be) the man that you talked (talk) to this morning?

13: I saw (see) him at the gate when I came (come) in.

14: We were waiting (wait) for the bus when he passed (pass) by in his car and offered (offer) us a lift.

15: I was (be) very tired because I was working (work) all day yesterday.

16: When the students heard (hear) the bell, they got up (get up) and left (leave).

17: We (drive) drove around the parking lot for 20 minutes to find a parking space.

18: She (get) did she get married last year?

19: While Tom was playing (play) the piano, his mother was doing the washing-up.

20: I last saw (see) her at her house two months ago.

Simple Past and Past Continuous test

Simple Past vs Past Continuous Exercise
Simple Past x Past Continuous Exercise

Conclusion

Now that you have learned the lesson to distinguish between the past simple and the past continuous, never use it wrong.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below to be supported by English tivi ‘s teaching team!

Subscribe to the English TV channel on Youtube to improve your English skills!

Read more: English Grammar

5/5 - (1 vote)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *