Past Progressive Verbs/Past Continuous Verbs

Past Progressive Verbs/Past Continuous Verbs

Past progressive verbs are also called past continuous verbs. They show continuing action in the past.

The children were reading.

was practicing the piano when you came.

What's a progressive verb?

Every single verb has three simple tenses and three perfect tenses, and each of those tenses can be made into a progressive/continuous form.

Progressive verbs are not another verb tense, but are more like an extra form of each of the tenses.

They show that the verb is still happening.

Depending on whether you like to call them progressive or continuous, you can use these two ways to remember what they mean:

The action is continuing to happen, so it is a continuous verb.

The action is still in progress, so it is a progressive verb.

All progressive verbs are formed with a form of the verb be (am, is, are, was, were, been, being) and the verb's present participle.

Present participles are the forms of the verb that end in ing.

Forming Past Progressive

There is a very easy recipe for making these verb forms.

were/was + present participle

The present participle is the form of the verb that ends in ing

were/was + Present Participle arrow Past Progressive
was learning arrow I was learning.
were learning arrow We were learning.
was winning arrow Mark was winning.
were winning arrow The boys were winning.
was graduating arrow My sister was graduating.
were graduating arrow The students were graduating.
was practicing arrow The singer was practicing.
were practicing arrow The choirs were practicing.

Was or Were?

Are you wondering when you should use was and when you should use were? That is an issue of subject-verb agreement.

Whenever you write a sentence, you need to make sure that the subject and the verb agree.

When you use a singular subject like boy, then you need to use the helping verb was. (Singular means one.)

The boy was reading the book.

When you use a plural subject like boys, then you need to use the helping verb were. (Plural means more than one.)

The boys were reading the book.

So, if you're not sure when to use was or were, look at your subject and ask yourself, "Is it singular or plural?" 

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