Use of the Past Progressive

When do we use the Past Progressive?

The Past Progressive is used when we talk about something which was happening at a special time in the past. It is also called Past Continuous.

1. actions were in progress at special time in the past

Peter was reading a book yesterday evening.

She was listening to the radio.

2. two actions were happening at the same time (the actions do not influence each other)

Anne was writing a letter while Steve was reading the New York Times.

3. together with the Simple Past

While we were sitting at the breakfast table, the telephone rang.


  • Past Progressive → were sitting at the table
  • Simple Past → the telephone rang.

The action in Simple Past interrupted the action in Past Progressive.

4. repeated actions irritating the speaker (with always, constantly, forever)

Andrew was always coming late. (I don't like that.)

Simple Past → Andrew always came late. (Here I don't give a comment.)