was/were + present partciple, eg verb + ing
I was watching a film when she called me on my mobile.
At 8 am, I was eating breakfast.
I was sleeping while he was cleaning the flat.
She was always coming to work late.
1. Interrupted Action in the Past
We use the Past Continuous to say that a longer action in the past was interrupted. The interruption is usually something in the Simple Past.
- I was watching a film when she called me on my mobile.
- While we were having lunch, it started to rain.
- Sally was working when David arrived.
- While Paul was sleeping last night, someone stole his bicycle.
2. A specific time in the past
The Past Continuous can be used to express a past continuous action that was happening at a specific time in the past.
- At 8 am, I was eating breakfast.
- At 3 am I was sleeping.
3. Parallel Actions
When you use the Past Continuous with two actions in the same sentence, it expresses the idea that both actions were happening at the same time.
- I was sleeping while he was cleaning the flat.
- While Peter was reading, David was listening to the radio.
4. Repeating irriating activity in the past.
The Past Continuous with words such as always or constantly expresses the idea that something irritating or shocking often happened in the past.
- She was always coming to work late.
- He was constantly talking. He annoyed everyone.
- I didn’t like her because she was always complaining.
5. Active / Passive
- David was helping Paul in the garden when the police came. Active
- Paul was being helped by David when the police came. Passive