Learning Materials Lessons San Diego San Diego Neighborhoods

English tense 4 of 12: The Past Progressive

September 1, 2013

The Past Progressive (also called the Past Continuous) is one of the 12 English tenses, and one that is used very often. Today we are looking at this tense and talking about one of the coolest neighborhoods in San Diego: Ocean Beach!

Called “OB” by most, Ocean Beach is an area between Point Loma and Mission Beach. It is easily accessible by bus and has a beautiful beach with a long pier. Surfers love this beach’s strong waves and locals love the laid-back vibe of this community. It is traditionally seen as the “hippy” area, so expect lots of organic foods and barefoot people, but OB is much more than just a neighborhood of hippies: it’s main street, Newton, is lined with great restaurants and shops, and its farmer’s market is one of the best in SD.

Past Continuous Form

was/were + ing

I was walking on Ocean Beach yesterday.

He was looking at all of the beach-goers.

You were swimming in the ocean.

They were  playing volleyball.

We were taking pictures and laughing on the pier.

 

Uses of the Past Continuous

There are several uses of the Past Progressive:

1. To talk about something that happened for a period of time in the past

I was working as a lifeguard in OB.

Many people were surfing.

Suddenly, I heard someone yell for help.

He was drowning!

I swam out to him . . . but he wasn’t drowning. He was just playing with his friends and yelling.

 

2. To talk about two things that were happening in the past at the same time

While I was suntanning on the beach in OB, my friends were playing volleyball.

My roommate was drinking water but I was drinking a soda.

She was reading a book but I was sleeping.

He was surfing while the sun was setting over the pier.

 

3. To talk about two events in the past (and show their relationship to each other)

I was suntanning when I looked up and saw a dolphin!

While we were taking a photo on the O.B. pier, we saw a guy catch a huge wave.

Were you at the O.B. Street Fair when the bands performed?

 

Notes:

The Past Continuous cannot be used with non-action verbs, which are verbs that are used to express things which are not necessarily actions. Examples include words like own, have, believe, or seem.

In these cases, the simple past should be used. For example:

She was owning a car.

She owned a car.

He was seeming sick.

He seemed sick.

 

 

For more information on non-action verbs, check out our lesson on non-action verbs, practice them here, or explore this grammar lesson further by learning about non-action verbs which break the normal rules.

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