Friday, April 3, 2009

Past Continuous Tense : Frequently Asked Questions

What is the verb-form in Past Perfect Tense?

Past Continuous Tense makes use of a compound verb-form ,taat is, the verb-form consisting of an auxiliary and the obligatory main verb.The main verb is in the -ing form . The auxiliary verb is was for singular subjects and were for plural subjects .

What is the context in which Past Continuous is used ?

Generally speaking, Past Continuous expresses an extended action or activity as opposed to a momentary action .This tense is used when the speaker wants to say that some action occurred while another was in progress . The action in progress is put in the Past Continuous verb-form and the momentary action is put in the Simple Past verb-form

I was speaking on the phone when the door-bell rang

In this sentence there are two actions One of them -the door-bell rang- occurred while another -was speaking -was going on . See other examples:

*He saw her when she was plucking flowers in her garden

*He went out when it was raining outside

*He stumbled over a stone while he was running to catch a bus.

*She fell off the footboard while she was boarding the bus

These examples could be split up into shorter sentences or re-phrased suitably in conversational English Examples:

*She was plucking flowers in her garden . Then he happened to see her

*He went out , but it was then raining hard outside.

*He was running to catch a bus .Then he stumbled over a stone

*Hard luck She was boarding the bus . Then she fell off the footboard.

Is Past Continuous used in any other context ?

Yes ! There needn't be two actions in the sentence in order to use Past Continuous> Sometimes Past Continuous verb-form merely indicates the continuity of an action in the pastThe speaker wants to emphasize the continuity of the acti on and not the action itself See these examples:

*I feel dead tired. I was working all day yerterday

*Look! The ground is flooded. It was raining hard last night.

Does Past Continuous imply any interruption in the action?

No! This tense need not imply any interruption of any action .However, in some situations the verb in the Simple Past may interrupt the action in the Continuous form Example:

The telephone rang when I was having my lunch .

Here the action in the continuous form(was having) is interrupted by the action in the Simple Past(rang) But look at the following sentence:

He went out when it was raining outside

Here the continuous action is in no way inerrupted by the action in the simple past.!

When there are two past actions in the sentence , need we put one of them in the Pas
t Continuous ?

No! We need put the extended action alone in the continuous form . If both the actions are extended actions , we can put both of them in the Past Continuous tense, If both the actions are consecutive actions in the past , both of them can be expressed in Simple Past . Examples:

* He was reading and she was writing all the morning.

*He slept and she sat by his bedside during his long illness

*The child played and the baby_sitter watched while his parents were away.

* He came in and sat next to her,.

When we narrate past events we use sentences like these. Past Continuous is used only when the speaker has in mind the continuity of th action. When the speaker has in mind the continuity of both the actions , he/she can put both the actions in Past Continuous .See this example:

She was crying and he was wiping her tears

Dear readers, I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you

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