Grammar Tutorial: Past Progressive Tense

Written by Leny Ortega

Past Progressive Tense of the verb is used when something was going on before another action happened. Remember, these two actions are both in the past. Only the action that was going on uses the past progressive tense while the other action uses the simple past tense.

1st past action (on-going)             2nd past action
Form:  (singular) was + verb – ing                     simple past (talked, walked, etc)
                    (plural )  were + verb – ing

1. The teacher was discussing the lesson when the group of rowdy men entered the classroom.

2. The civilians were crossing the river when they heard a loud explosion.

3. The UN peace troopers were meeting their members when foreign terrorists attacked the camp.

Exercises: Use the correct form of the verb inside the parentheses.

1. Melissa (sing) her contest piece when the audience (shout) delightfully at her performance.

2. The GLEE Club members (prepare) their repertoire when the adviser (ask) them to revise the list.

3. The ballerina (practice) her routine when her partner accidentally (slip) on the floor.

4. The news reporter (deliver) the news when a storm surge (reach) his place.

5. The militant groups (ask) for a signature campaign against the president when the presidential
spoke person (call) for a press conference.


1. The answers are was singing and shouted respectively. Melissa is singular that is why was is used. The first verb sing is formed as was singing and the other verb is in simple past, shouted. This means that Melissa was actually singing (on- going) then a shout was heard from the audience.

2. In this number “were preparing” is the first on- going past action. We could imagine here that members were on the process of selecting the songs and dance number to include in the repertoire when all of a sudden the club adviser asked them to revise the items included in the list. Therefore, the correct answers here are: were preparing and asked.

3. In this number, both the ballerina and her partner were dancing (Meaning on-going). The ballerina was busy doing her part of the routine then the partner accidentally slipped. So, the correct answers are was practicing (ballerina –singular) and slipped.

4. In sentence number 4, we can actually imagine a television news reporter doing her usual account of a typhoon when a big wave of water was seen on the background reached his place. Therefore, the news reporting was on- going when a storm surged occurred. Answers: was delivering and reached.

5. The answers to this number are: were asking and called. We use “were asking” because the subject is plural (militant groups). The idea here is that the groups were busy asking people to sign in favor of their campaign against the president. Then, probably after hearing this propaganda against the president the spoke person announced of an urgent press conference.

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