English Grammar Online … the fun way to learn English!

English Grammar – Past Progressive

Form of Past Progressive

  • P: He was speaking.
  • N: He was not speaking.
  • Q: Was he speaking?

Use of Past Progressive

Past Progressive is used for actions in the past and focusses on the course or duration of the action.

  • Action taking place at a certain moment in the past

    Being in the middle of doing something at a certain time in the past.


    At two oclock, Carla was preparing the contract.
    Yesterday I was looking for Mister Millers phone number.

  • Actions happening simultaneously

    Actions in the past happening at the same time (over a longer period of time).


    While Claire was preparing her presentation, Tom was showing the customer around.
    While Sarah was looking for the documents, I was keeping the customer on the line.

  • Being in the middle of an action, when another action set in

    Action taking place over a longer period of time in the past when (suddenly) another (shorter) action set in. (see also: Simple Past)


    I was sitting in a meeting, when my mobile suddenly rang.
    When I came in, John was playing solitaire.

Signal Words of Past Progressive

when, while, as long as

Detailed Explanation and Exercises on Past Progressive

Exercise on Past Progressive

Complete the sentences in Past Progressive.

  1. Yesterday at six, John (drive) to the airport.
  2. While Claire (have) lunch in the cantine, Mary and Will (talk) to a customer.
  3. I (prepare) the invoice, when my computer suddenly crashed.
  4. When we (sit) in the meeting, Joseph suddenly got a hiccup.
  5. I (gossip / not) with Amy when you came in - we (discuss) a serious problem.
  6. Bob and I (walk) to the office, when it suddenly started to rain.
  7. During the week of the conference, I (stay) at a nice B&B.
  8. Where (you / stay) during your time in London?
  9. Who (do) my job while I was in hospital?