In this podcast, Louisa will teach you two ways to use the past continuous verb tense – one for how to tell stories about the past and one for how to answer the question: What were you doing? This is an important podcast that explains a challenging verb tense simply, easily and enjoyably! Listen up and learn to master English grammar with Everyday English with E2.

Hello and welcome to the Everyday English podcast with E2 – my name is Louisa!

Each week we teach you how best to learn English vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation – and what we’ll do in today’s podcast – grammar. More specifically, we’re going to learn how to use the ‘past continuous verb tense to tell great stories about the past, and also to answer questions about “what were you doing at a specific time or when something was happening?”

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So, people love telling stories, and a lot of verbs in English are used to tell stories. These “story verbs” are often less commonly used verbs – verbs we don’t use very often – but they work perfectly when you want to tell a story about the past.

So let me start by telling you a story about me! Listen carefully and see if you can hear the past continuous verbs that I use in my story. Ready?

Yesterday I was walking down the street when I bumped into an old friend. My old friend was drinking a coffee when he saw me. 

That’s it! That’s my story. It only has two sentences, but it has four verbs! It has two past continuous verbs and two past tense verbs. 

Let’s listen a little more closely to those verbs:

I was walking / My friend was drinking 

So “was walking” and “was drinking” are both examples of past continuous verbs. The verb has two parts – the “be” verb: was or were and the “ing” verb, in this case: walking and drinking: was walking, was drinking.

Now, I told you that my two-sentence story had four verbs, and that’s because we use the past continuous verb tense – was walking, was drinking – with other verbs, in this case, ‘bumped into’ and ‘saw’. 

So what’s going on here? Well, what we’re doing is describing two events happening at the same time, so we need to say what I was doing and what the other person was doing. 

Again, listen carefully to my story, and this time listen for the other past simple verbs: ‘bumped into’ and ‘saw’. Ready?

Yesterday I was walking down the street when I bumped into an old friend. My old friend was drinking a coffee when he saw me. 

Did you hear them?

Did you also notice the special ‘coordinating’ words we used with this verb tense as well? Listen again:

Yesterday I was walking down the street when I bumped into an old friend. My old friend was drinking a coffee when he saw me. 

So, here the coordinating word ‘when’ is used between the past continuous verb and the past simple verb tense. It brings together the two events – the two things that happened. 

So that’s the first way to use the past continuous – to tell a coincidental story about the past. It’s a fun way to begin to tell a story as it really ‘sets the scene’.

Now, if you haven’t done so already, I recommend that you sign up for FREE to E2 English. It’s a great website to improve your English language skills. You can start with our FREE Placement Test – and from there, you can take any course you like from spelling to pronunciation to grammar. Check it out by going to!

Let’s now look at another use of the past continuous verb tense, and that’s how to answer a VERY common question in English: What were you doing? 

Let me give you some examples: 

Notice how this question is the past continuous verb tense in question form. WERE + DOING? And also notice that it asks about a certain time in the past – last night, yesterday, last week etc.

Now, to answer this question you need to use a past continuous verb! You need to say: I was… cleaning, cooking, driving, swimming, studying – or whatever it was you were doing at that time.

Ready? Let me ask you some questions and I want you to answer them using a past continuous verb: 

Well done! So what have we learned? Well, we’ve learned that we use the past continuous verb to tell a story of when two things happened. We learned that the past continuous verb is often used with a past simple verb and one of those special coordinating words like “when”. Then we learned that we can answer the question: What were you doing? with a past continuous verb as well.

Terrific! That’s all from me. Remember to subscribe to this podcast and check out E2 English if you need more help. See you soon.

We are now on TIK TOK, practise live with Louisa!

@e2english Hi! I’m Louisa, a new presenter here at E2. Practise your English with me! #duet #learnenglish ♬ original sound – E2English

In case you missed our last episode of Everyday English with E2:

Ep. 17 English Pronunciation – How to pronounce words like FOURTH, FIFTH, SIXTH in English with Jay