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Past Continuous or past simple?

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Sometimes it can be tricky to decide which tense we need to use. Remember these rules to help you:

  • A past continuous action is interrupted by a past simple action. e.g. I was shopping when I realised I lost my purse.
  • We use past continuous to emphasize that an action happened for some time e.g. I was waiting for hours.
  • We also use it to describe two actions that happened at the same time e.g. I was cleaning while he was ironing, just what you want from a Saturday night!

With these rules in mind, can you decide whether the sentences below need a past simple or past continuous verb?

Lesson by Caroline

  • 1. When I ___ home last night, it started to snow.

  • 2. I ___ TV when Joe came home.

  • 3. I ___ in Cape Town for two years.

  • 4. Sorry, I ___ when you rang so I couldn't pick up the phone.

  • 5. Jane ___ really well until she realised he wasn't coming back.

  • 6. John ___ for us when we got off the train.

  • 7. I ___ to school in a small town in the south.

  • 8. I ___ my first car when I was twenty-five.

  • 9. I just ___ that Luke is cheating on me.

  • 10. I ___ when I saw a huge spider!