Languages › English as a Second Language Guide to Past Simple and Past Continuous Share Flipboard Email Print sanjeri / Getty Images English as a Second Language Grammar Pronunciation & Conversation Vocabulary Writing Skills Reading Comprehension Business English Resources for Teachers By Kenneth Beare English as a Second Language (ESL) Expert TESOL Diploma, Trinity College London M.A., Music Performance, Cologne University of Music B.A., Vocal Performance, Eastman School of Music Kenneth Beare is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and course developer with over three decades of teaching experience. our editorial process Kenneth Beare Updated October 07, 2019 There are two principal past tenses used to make general statements about the past: The past simple and the past continuous. The two tenses are quite different. Use the past simple to talk about an event which happened at some point in time in the past. Tom flew to Chicago last week.Peter visited his friends in Florida two months ago. If you are a teacher, use this guide on how to teach the past simple tense for more help. The past continuous is usually used to refer to events happening at the same time that something important happened in the past. They were doing their homework when she arrived.Jack was studying while Dave was cooking dinner. The past continuous is also used to express what was happening at a precise moment in the past. I was attending a lecture at 2.30 yesterday afternoon.Alice was reading a book at six yesterday evening. If you are a teacher, use this guide on how to teach the past continuous tense for more help. Past Simple Structure Positive Subject + Verb + ed OR Irregular Past Form + Objects I, You, He, She, We, They > played golf yesterday afternoon.I, You, He, She, We, They > went lunch at noon. Negative Subject + did not (didn't) + Verb + Objects I, You, He, She, We, They > didn't go on vacation last summer. Subject + did not (doesn't) + Verb + Objects Questions (Why, What, etc.) + did + Subject + Verb + Objects? Did > I, you, we, they > attend the meeting last week? Past Continuous Structure Positive Subject + conjugate the helping verb "be" + verb + -ing. I was, You were, He was, She was, We were, You were, They were > watching TV when I arrived. Negative Subject + conjugate the helping verb "be" + not + verb + -ing. I wasn't, You weren't, He wasn't, She wasn't, We weren't, You weren't, They weren't > working when he came into the room. Questions Question word + conjugate the helping verb 'be' + subject + verb + -ing What > were you, they > doing at seven o'clock?What > was I, he, she > doing at seven o'clock? More Guides for Past Simple These guides were prepared especially for beginners and include dialogues and a short quiz. Past simple with the verb "to be" for beginnersPast simple with regular and irregular verbs for beginners Teach a Lesson About the Past Simple and Past Continuous Here are lessons on the site which focus on the past simple or past continuous and their use with other tenses.Then - Now - integration lesson for upper-level students.Time Expressions - past simple and present perfect compared and contrasted.Integrating Past Continuous - integrating past continuous into writing.Guilty! - communication lesson using a variety of past tenses. Activities With the Past Simple and Past Continuous Some activities that will help you practice: What Were You Doing? - Use of the past continuous in combination with the past simple.A Holiday in Italy - Describing a past holiday.Time Expressions and Tenses.