[was/were + present participle]
USE 1-Interrupted Action in the Past
Use the Past Continuous to indicate that a longer action in the past was interrupted. The interruption is usually a shorter action in the Simple Past. Remember this can be a real interruption or just an interruption in time.
USE 2-Specific Time as an Interruption
In USE 1, described above, the Past Continuous is interrupted by a shorter action in the Simple Past. However, you can also use a specific time as an interruption.
In the Simple Past, a specific time is used to show when an action began or finished. In the Past Continuous, a specific time only interrupts the action.
USE 3-Parallel Actions
When you use the Past Continuous with two actions in the same sentence, it expresses the idea that both actions were happening at the same time. The actions are parallel.
In English, we often use a series of parallel actions to describe the atmosphere at a particular time in the past.
USE 5-Repetition and Irritation with “Always”
The Past Continuous with words such as “always” or “constantly” expresses the idea that something irritating or shocking often happened in the past. The concept is very similar to the expression “used to” but with negative emotion. Remember to put the words “always” or “constantly” between “be” and “verb+ing”.
While vs. When
Clauses are groups of words which have meaning, but are often not complete sentences. Some clauses begin with the word “when” such as “when she called” or “when it bit me.” Other clauses begin with “while” such as “while she was sleeping” and “while he was surfing.” When you talk about things in the past, “when” is most often followed by the verb tense Simple Past, whereas “while” is usually followed by Past Continuous. “While” expresses the idea of “during that time.” Study the examples below. They have similar meanings, but they emphasize different parts of the sentence.
REMEMBER-Non-Continuous Verbs / Mixed Verbs
It is important to remember that Non-Continuous Verbs cannot be used in any continuous tenses. Also, certain non-continuous meanings for Mixed Verbs cannot be used in continuous tenses. Instead of using Past Continuous with these verbs, you must use Simple Past.
The examples below show the placement for grammar adverbs such as: always, only, never, ever, still, just, etc.
ACTIVE / PASSIVE
Check out some of the other ‘Continuous Verb Tenses’