Past Simple vs Past Continuous

Objectives of today’s lesson:

In this lesson, Learn English with Julia presents to you “Past Simple v Past Continuous”, in order for you to:

  • understand the difference between the Past Simple and Past Continuous
  • gain practice with the Past Simple and Past Continuous exercises with answers
  • use new Past Simple and Past Continuous activities
  • learn the signal words that work with the Past Simple and others that work with the Past Continuous


Video Script:

Hello! Now let’s look when to use the past simple v the past continuous.

The simple past or past simple is formed by taking a bare infinitive or an infinitive without “to” and adding “-ED” to the end.

However there are many irregular verbs and some regular verbs also have spelling changes before adding the “-ED” to them.

I listen : I listened

we add the “-ED”

I complete

I remove the silent e

before adding the “-ED”

I completed

And an regular verb such as “teach” becomes “taught”

Now we use the past simple for finished actions

I booked my flights yesterday.

For actions in a certain moment, at a certain time in the past.

I spoke to him an hour ago.

Or when we are referring to a specific action or event.

I went to the US last summer.

We can also use it for a series of events .

First I did this then I did that

When do we use the past continuous or past progressive?

First of all how is it formed?

We use the auxiliary “to be” in the simple past / past simple “was” or “were” and we add the present participle or “-ing form”

I was listening, you were swimming.

So please watch the video on the spelling of the present participle or “-ing form”

We use this tense when we want to focus on the length of the action.

When this action is happening in the middle of something else

When it also takes place at a particular moment in time in the past.

So here are a few examples containing the signal words “when” or “while”

I was reading when you rang.

They were sleeping when we were driving.

Be careful here because depending on the

tense you choose where the past simple or past continuous

these two options mean two very different things

when I arrived you were preparing lunch

that means that when the person arrived the other person was already preparing lunch

the second option however means that the arrival prompts the other action

when I arrived you prepared lunch – you started preparing lunch only when I had arrived

so be careful there

get some practice and

thanks for watching!


Grammar Quiz to practice the past tenses:


Keywords listed in English:

  • past continuous or past progressive
  • simple past or past simple
  • past tenses
  • past participle
  • present participle or “-ing form”
  • -ED endings (spelling and pronunciation)
  • irregular verbs

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