Simple Past – Past Progressive – contrasted

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Differences and similarities in the Simple Present and the Present Progressive

1. Use

Simple Past Past Progressive
  • action finished in the past (single or repeated)
  • series of completed actions in the past
  • action was in progress at a special time in the past
  • two actions were happening at the same time (the actions do not influence each other)

2. Form

Simple Past Past Progressive
  • regular verbs: infinitive + -ed
  • irregular verbs: 2nd column of the table of the irregular verbs
(was or were) + infinitive + -ing

3. Examples

3.1. Affirmative sentences

Simple Past Past Progressive
I played football. He was playing football.
You played football. You were playing football.
He played football. He was playing football.

3.2. Negative sentences

Simple Past Past Progressive
I did not play football. He was not playing football.
You did not play football. You were not playing football.
He did not play football. He was not playing football.

3.3. Questions

Simple Past Past Progressive
Did I play football? Was I playing football?
Did you play football? Were you playing football?
Did he play football? Was he playing football?

4. Spelling

Simple Past Past Progressive
  • stopped (Double the consonant after a short vowel.)
  • loved (one -e at the end of the word → Add only -d.)
  • worried (consonant before -y → Change to -i.)
  • sitting (Double the consonant after a short vowel.)
  • writing (Drop the -e.)
  • lying (Change -ie to -y.)

5. Use

Both tenses are often used in one sentence:

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

We were sitting at the breakfast table when the telephone rang.

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

The action in the Simple Past (pink) interrupts the action in the Past Progressive (blue).


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