The past continuous or past progressive tense is used to express actions that happen in the past and continue in the past till now.
(a) Interrupted actions
Two actions happen in the past. The first action is interrupted by the second. The word when and while are used to show interruption. Take note that the second action requires a verb in the past tense form.
- The kids were playing when their teacher called them in. – [Now, the kids are in class.]
- It started to rain while we were walking in the park. – [Now, we are not walking anymore.]
(b) Parallel actions
Simultaneous actions that happened in the past.
- The baby was crying while his mother was cooking in the kitchen.
- The man was slouching on the couch, (was) eating his chips and (was) watching television when I came.
Take note that in Example #2, the verb “was“ is omitted from eating and watching. This is because both these verbs have the same function in the sentence, and they refer to the same man. Observe:
- The man was slouching on the couch while the woman was eating her chips and (was) watching television when I came.
See the difference? 🙂