Using the Past Progressive Verb

Contributor: Linda Price. Lesson ID: 10117

When I was writing this description, my mind was going blank. That is an example of the past progressive tense, showing actions that happened together in the past. Use online sites to learn about it!


Grammar, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Sometimes, when talking about past events, the events occur at the same time.

  • "Yesterday, while I was studying, it was raining."

At other times, two events occur in the past, but one event begins before the other one.

  • "I was studying when it began to rain."

In this lesson, you will learn how to use the past progressive to express two events occurring in the past!

Begin by taking a look at the progressive tenses.

There are three progressive tenses: the present, the past, and the future progressive. These tenses indicate a continuing action. All three are formed using the verb "be" + -ing. Some people refer to the progressive tenses as the continuous tenses; they are the same thing.

In this lesson, you will concentrate on the past progressive, used to convey an action that was in progress at a particular time in the past.

Look at the following examples:

  • Tim was reading when I got home.

  • The cat was sleeping until the lightning began.

In each case, one action began before another one.

In the next examples, both actions occur at the same time, so the past progressive can be used in both parts of the sentence.

  • The phone was ringing while I was working on my assignment.

  • While I was making the brownies, my mother was cooking dinner.

For more explanation and examples of past progressive, check out these links:

When you are ready, continue on to the Got It? section for some exercises!

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