Past simple v past continuous


We can use two forms of the past, one in the simple form and the other in the continuous. 

If you understand the present continuous (I am working at the moment) then all you have to do is move it into a past time to emphasize an action in the past with duration (I was working at 11am yesterday).

Past Simple

The past simple is used to describe fully completed events in the past. We often use a time indicator (e.g. yesterday, last year, in 2003 etc) but we don’t always have to mention it – important is that the context must be about this past time.




I went to Frankfurt last week.
She drove to Bremen yesterday.
I moved to London in 2003.

Past Continuous

The past continuous is used to describe actions of duration in the past. We generally use it to:



1. To describe an action of duration in the past covering a specific time:

I was working at 11am yesterday.

2. To describe an event of duration in the past (past continuous) interrupted by another event (past simple):
He was writing an email when the phone rang.

3. To describe two parallel events of duration in the past:
We were speaking to a customer while John was giving a presentation.

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