Unit 7: The Titanic
Past simple and past continuous
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- 1 Nice to meet you!
- 2 What to wear
- 3 Like this, like that
- 4 The daily grind
- 5 Christmas every day
- 6 Great achievers
- 7 The Titanic
- 8 Travel
- 9 The big wedding
- 10 Sunny's job hunt
- 11 The bucket list
- 12 Moving and migration
- 13 Welcome to BBC Broadcasting House
- 14 New Year, New Project
- 15 From Handel to Hendrix
- 16 What's the weather like?
- 17 The Digital Revolution
- 18 A detective story
- 19 A place to live
- 20 The Cult of Celebrity
- 21 Welcome to your new job
- 22 Beyond the planets
- 23 Great expectations!
- 24 Eco-tourism
- 25 Moving house
- 26 It must be love
- 27 Job hunting success... and failure
- 28 Speeding into the future
- 29 Lost arts
- 30 Tales of survival
When telling a story or talking about a true event, we can use both the continuous and simple forms of the past tense. In this session, you will put events from the animated video in order, and then focus on when to use the two forms of the tense.
Session 2 score
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Past simple and past continuous
In this session we've looked at the story of the Titanic disaster. We've learned how to talk about past events using the past simple and past continuous. It's time for 6 Minute Grammar with Rob, Emma and Finn to help you understand these two past verb forms.
But what did Finn do last night? Listen to the programme to find out!
Listen to the audio
Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Rob.
And me, Emma. Hello.
In today's programme we're talking about the past simple and the past continuous tenses…
Yes, we'll look at when we use each tense...
We'll show you how to form the positive, negative and question forms of each one…
And as usual, we'll finish with a quiz.
And first, here's a quick reminder of the past simple. Hello Finn.
Could you give us an example please?
Last night I saw the film 'Titanic'.
Ooh Titanic, what a movie! Finn saw it last night. So, we use the past simple for completed actions in the past.
And we had the past simple of the verb see, which is the irregular form saw.
And as we know, you just have to learn the irregular verbs.
But the good news is that lots of verbs are regular, and to make them into the past simple, you just add e and d to the infinitive, like this:
Hundreds of passengers jumped into the sea.
Jump - jumped. Simple. To make past simple negatives, we add didn't to the infinitive, like this:
Sandra Bullock didn't win an Oscar for Gravity.
Now let's look at past simple questions. Emma, did you see the news last night?
Yes, I did.
So, for the question, it's: did plus the subject plus the infinitive.
And the short answers are: Yes plus subject plus did: Yes, I did.
Or: No plus subject plus didn't: No, I didn't.
So that's the past simple for completed actions in the past.
Now, to talk about past activities, we can use the past continuous. Here's an example:
I was watching a movie on TV. It was raining. We were feeling very bored.
Now, we can use the past continuous to talk about an activity that was already happening when something else happened, like this:
Dad was cooking dinner when the police arrived. The children were watching TV when the officers came into the living room.
Ooh the police! Very dramatic! Yes, think about one activity interrupting the other - the activity that was already happening is in the past continuous - Dad was cooking dinner...
And the activity that interrupted it is in the past simple: the police arrived.
So you can put the past simple and continuous together to talk about activities and actions that happened one on top of another.
Remember those examples everyone - I'm going to test you later!
OK. To make the past continuous, it's was or were plus an i-n-g verb.
Dad was cooking dinner. The children were watching TV.
Now to make the negative past continuous, you just put wasn't or weren't in front of the -ing verb, like this:
The baby wasn't sleeping. The children weren't playing games.
Wasn't sleeping and weren't playing. Wasn't and weren't are short forms of was not and were not.
Now for past continuous questions, it's was or were, with the subject plus an i-n-g verb. And I'm going to demonstrate this by testing you on the examples we had before. Rob, was Mum cooking dinner?
No, she wasn't: Dad was cooking dinner.
That's correct: well done. Were the children playing games?
No, they weren't.
Correct, well done again!
For past continuous short answers it's: Yes plus subject plus was, or: No plus subject plus wasn't.
You're listening to BBC Learning English dot com.
Right, time for a quiz. I'm going to say a sentence and you have to choose the right verb form to go in the gap. Ready? OK. Number 1. When the phone rang, we ____ a film. Is it a) watched or b) were watching? When the phone rang, we ____ a film.
It's b) When the phone rang, we were watching a film.
Good, number 2: Cate Blanchett _____ an Oscar for Best Actress. Is it a) was winning or b) won? Cate Blanchett _____ an Oscar for Best Actress.
It's b) Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for Best Actress.
And here's the final question. Ready? When the police _____, Dad was cooking dinner. Is it a) arrived b) were arriving? When the police _____, Dad was cooking dinner.
When the police arrived, Dad was cooking dinner. Good old dad. Still cooking that dinner. What a hero!
So, well done if you got those right. And don't forget there's lots more about tenses on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.
That's it for Session 2! We hope you've enjoyed it. Remember to check the grammar reference to learn more about these forms and see some examples.
Join us again in Session 3 for some more eyewitness accounts along with reading and listening comprehension practice.
When to use past simple
We use the past simple to describe an action that happened and finished in the past. We commonly use it to give the order of events in a narrative.
The Titanic struck the iceberg at 11.40pm.
When to use past continuous
We use the past continuous to describe an action that was in progress at a particular time in the past but not completed. We often use this tense with a specific time or together with another shorter event.
The passengers were having dinner at 9 o'clock.
How to make positive past continuous sentences
The past continuous is made from subject + was/were + verb-ing.