Business English Grammar 5- Master Past Simple or Continuous

Form

I was sittingI sat
You were sittingYou sat
She was sittingShe sat
We were sittingWe sat
They were sittingThey sat
I wasn’t sittingI didn’t sit
You weren’t sittingYou didn’t sit
He wasn’t sittingHe didn’t sit
We weren’t sittingWe didn’t sit
They weren’t sittingThey didn’t sit
Was I sitting?Did I sit?
Were you sitting?Did you sit?
Was she sitting?Did you sit?
Were we sitting?Did we sit?
Were they sitting?Did they sit?

Past Simple or Progressive

Both the past simple and the past continuous refer to completed actions in the past.

Talking about the past

Most of the time when we are talking about such actions, we use the past simple. This is by far the most common way of talking about the past.

  • I lived there for 6 years.
  • I only found out a few moments ago.
  • I asked her but she didn’t know anything.
  • The company made 100 people redundant last year.

Emphasise the continuity

Only use the past continuous when you want to emphasize the continuity of the action. 

  • Everybody was talking about it all evening.
  • They were really trying hard but couldn’t do it.
  • I was thinking about you the other day.
  • Were you expecting that to happen?

Contrast

When we use these two forms in the same sentence, we use the past continuous to talk about the “background action” and the past simple to talk about the shorter completed action. 

  • It was raining hard when we left the building.
  • I was reading the report when you rang.
  • He was going out to lunch when I saw him.
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