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Past Simple Vs Past Continuous

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Here's a quick reminder of the rules of using past simple and past continuous together.

In this sentence there are two verbs:

I was watching television when he arrived.

The first action is a long action - it lasted for a period of time. We therefore use the past continuous.

The second action is a short action that has interrupted the first. So for this we need past simple!

The regular past simple is formed using 'ed' and the past continuous is formed using was/were + past participle.

Now I've reminded you of how to use these tenses, try the exercise below and see if you can decide which verb needs which tense. Good luck!

Lesson by Caroline, English language teacher at EC English

  • 1. The children (play) in the park when it started to rain.
  • 2. I was watching a movie when I (notice) him standing outside.
  • 3. She arrived when I (have) a bath, so I couldn't answer the door!
  • 4. I (see) a famous celebrity when I was shopping on Oxford Street yesterday.
  • 5. She was drinking too much so she (fall). I hope she learnt her lesson!
  • 6. Charlie (hide) in my wardrobe when Lola found him. She screamed!
  • 7. The computer (break) when I was checking my bank balance.
  • 8. She was smiling until the terrible singer (come) on stage.
  • 9. I (live) in Cape Town when Michelle Obama visited.
  • 10. My parents were watching me carefully but my brother (distract) them so I could sneak out the window!