Simple Past and Past Continuous

when to use the Simple Past

  • used for actions and events completed in the past (I saw him yesterday.)
    signal words (signifying a definite time): yesterday, …….. ago, when …., last week / month / year, in 2018
  • habitual action in the past (She always walked to school.)

when to use the Past Continuous

  • something was happening at a definite time in the past (I was having a bath at eight.)
  • to express that an action which was happening in the past was interrupted by another (shorter) event. It is unclear whether the interrupted event was completed. (I was having a bath when the phone rang.)
  • in descriptions (I was sitting in my chair, and I was quietly reading my newspaper, when suddenly there was a knock on the back door.)
  • expressing annoyance at a frequently repeated action (you were always smoking inside!)

NOTE: The continuous occurs only with verbs that indicate duration and describe activities that are deliberate. Verbs which are not normally used in the continuous are

  • verbs of the senses (see, hear, feel, etc.)
  • verbs expressing feelings and emotions (love, hate, fear, hate, etc.)
  • verbs expressing possession (own, possess, etc.)
  • verbs expressing perception, remembrance, preference, knowledge (mean, know, believe, forget, understand, appreciate, etc.)

Exercises

Simple Past (he went) and Past Continuous (he was going) (elementary)

  • exercise 1: fill in the correct verb form of the simple past or the past continuous
  • exercise 2: fill in the correct verb form of the simple past or the past continuous
  • exercise 3: fill in the correct verb form of the simple past or the past continuous
  • exercise 4: fill in the correct verb form of the simple past or the past continuous
  • exercise 5: choose the correct verb forms

Simple Past (he went) and Past Continuous (he was going) (intermediate)

  • exercise 10: fill in the correct verb form of the simple past or the past continuous
  • exercise 11: fill in the correct verb form of the simple past or the past continuous
  • exercise 12: fill in the correct verb form of the simple past or the past continuous
  • exercise 13: choose the simple past or past continuous
  • exercise 14: fill in the correct verb form of the simple past or the past continuous
  • exercise 15: fill in the correct verb form of the simple past or the past continuous
  • exercise 16: fill in the correct verb form of the simple past or the past continuous
  • exercise 17: fill in the correct verb form of the simple past or the past continuous
  • exercise 18: fill in the correct verb form of the simple past or the past continuous

Useful pages

  • exercises for practising the Simple Past ( I went)
  • exercises for practising the Past Continuous (I was going)