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Grammar B1

The Past Continuous

Come si forma?
Il Past Continuous (o Progressive) è formato da:

verbo to be al Past Simple (was/were) + verbo in –ing

Essendo to be il verbo ausiliare, questo tempo segue le regole del verbo essere: perciò costruisce la
forma negativa aggiungendo not e quella interrogativa usando l’inversione di ausiliare e soggetto:

forma affermativa forma negativa forma interrogativa


Martha was cleaning. Martha was not cleaning. Was Martha cleaning?
Risposta breve:
Yes, she was. / No, she wasn’t.

Quando si usa?
1) La funzione principale del Past Continuous è quella di parlare di una lunga azione passata che viene
interrotta da un’altra più breve (quest’ultima è espressa con il Past Simple).

my dinner

the call

yesterday today

Per esempio:
He called me while I was having dinner yesterday. (vedi schema)
When the storm hit, we were playing soccer.
She was doing her Maths test when the bell rang.

2) Il Past Continuous si usa anche per esprimere due azioni che sono avvenute contemporaneamente nel
passato.

watch TV + wash dishes

yesterday today

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Per esempio:
We were watching TV while my brother was washing the dishes. (vedi schema)
I was listening to music while you were studying.
While my mother was visiting clients, I was buying groceries for the week.

3) Il Past Continuous si usa per parlare di eventi in corso di svolgimento nel passato.
Per esempio:
I was brushing my teeth yesterday morning at 7.
She was finishing her Maths test yesterday afternoon.
At this exact moment twenty years ago, my parents were getting married.

4) Specialmente nei racconti, il Past Continuous si usa per descrivere la situazione generale, il “setting”,
mentre le azioni sono espresse con il Past Simple.
Per esempio:
It was a chilly night. It was snowing and dark clouds were hovering in the sky. Lynn heard a strange
noise, a window was banging. She got up and closed the window.
(traduzione: era una notte fredda. Nevicava e c’erano nuvole scure in cielo. Lynn sentì un rumore
strano, una finestra sbatteva. Si alzò e chiuse la finestra.)

Quando usi nella stessa frase Past Continuous e Past Simple, ricorda la regola dei “time markers”:
When + Past Simple
While + Past Continuous
Per esempio:
While I was having a bath, Pat called.
When Pat called, I was having a bath.

NB: alcuni verbi non possono avere la forma continua, non potrai perciò usarli al Past Continuous. Fanno
parte di questa categoria, per esempio, i verbi di sentimento (love, hate), di percezione involontaria
(hear, smell), di attività mentale (know, understand), di volontà (want), di possesso (have, quando
indica possesso).

Exercises

1) Put the words in the correct order.


Yesterday evening on the train to Watford...
1. listening / to / Paul / was / music
2. Jessica / a / sandwich / eating / was
3. twins / were / the / cards / playing
4. was / Robbie / his / phoning / dad
5. laptop / her / Laura / was / on / working
6. her / chatting / with / Heather / friends / was

2) Correct the mistakes.


1. Nobody were waiting for them at the station.
2. Paul's mother was still driveing along High Street.
3. Robbie's father was siting in the pub.
4. Laura's parents were haveing a nap.
5. Jessica's boyfriend was studiing in the library.
6. Everybody were listening to him.

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3) Fill in the gaps with verbs in the Past Continuous tense. Choose from the list in the box.

to camp – to sunbathe – to listen – to windsurf – to trek – to climb – to cycle

For example:
__________________________________ along the lane when I fell off my bike.
I was cycling along the lane when I fell off my bike.

1. ___________________________________ by the pool when someone pushed her into the water.
2. ___________________________________ in Wales when he got lost.
3. ___________________________________ in rough seas when a gust of wind blew them over.
4. ___________________________________ near Loch Ness when our tent collapsed.
5. ___________________________________ Ben Nevis when his rope snapped.
6. ___________________________________ to the radio when his mobile rang.

4) Choose the correct option.


1. I saw / was seeing Carl while he crossed / was crossing the road.
2. We weren't driving / didn't drive to work yesterday because it snowed / was snowing.
3. I heard / was hearing a noise and I woke / was waking up.
4. While I was parking / parked my new car I scratched / was scratching the front wing.
5. I cut / was cutting my finger while I sliced / was slicing the bread.
6. I was watching / watched TV when someone rang / was ringing the bell.

5) Make up three sentences about your life using a combination of Past Simple + Past Continuous.
For example:
While I was having lunch in the school cafeteria, Mary came to say hi.

1. ______________________________________________________________________
2. ______________________________________________________________________
3. ______________________________________________________________________

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