Sesión 2

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.

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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!

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Rob
Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Rob.

Emma
And me, Emma. Hello.

Rob
In today's programme we're talking about the past simple and the past continuous tenses…

Emma
Yes, we'll look at when we use each tense...

Rob
We'll show you how to form the positive, negative and question forms of each one…

Emma
And as usual, we'll finish with a quiz.

Rob
And first, here's a quick reminder of the past simple. Hello Finn.

Finn
Hello Rob.

Rob
Could you give us an example please?

Finn
Last night I saw the film 'Titanic'.

Rob
Ooh Titanic, what a movie! Finn saw it last night. So, we use the past simple for completed actions in the past.

Emma
And we had the past simple of the verb see, which is the irregular form saw.

Rob
And as we know, you just have to learn the irregular verbs.

Emma
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:

Finn
Hundreds of passengers jumped into the sea.

Rob
Jump - jumped. Simple. To make past simple negatives, we add didn't to the infinitive, like this:

Finn
Sandra Bullock didn't win an Oscar for Gravity.

Rob
Now let's look at past simple questions. Emma, did you see the news last night?

Emma
Yes, I did.

Rob
So, for the question, it's: did plus the subject plus the infinitive.

Emma
And the short answers are: Yes plus subject plus did: Yes, I did.

Rob
Or: No plus subject plus didn't: No, I didn't.

Emma
So that's the past simple for completed actions in the past.

Rob
Now, to talk about past activities, we can use the past continuous. Here's an example:

Finn
I was watching a movie on TV. It was raining. We were feeling very bored.

Emma
Now, we can use the past continuous to talk about an activity that was already happening when something else happened, like this:

Finn
Dad was cooking dinner when the police arrived. The children were watching TV when the officers came into the living room.

Rob
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...

Emma
And the activity that interrupted it is in the past simple: the police arrived.

Rob
So you can put the past simple and continuous together to talk about activities and actions that happened one on top of another.

Emma
Remember those examples everyone - I'm going to test you later!

Rob
OK. To make the past continuous, it's was or were plus an i-n-g verb.

Finn
Dad was cooking dinner. The children were watching TV.

Rob
Now to make the negative past continuous, you just put wasn't or weren't in front of the    -ing verb, like this: 

Finn
The baby wasn't sleeping. The children weren't playing games.

Rob
Wasn't sleeping and weren't playing. Wasn't and weren't are short forms of was not and were not.

Emma
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?

Rob
No, she wasn't: Dad was cooking dinner.

Emma
That's correct: well done. Were the children playing games?

Rob
No, they weren't.

Emma
Correct, well done again!

Rob
For past continuous short answers it's: Yes plus subject plus was, or: No plus subject plus wasn't.

IDENT
You're listening to BBC Learning English dot com.

Emma
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.

Rob
It's b) When the phone rang, we were watching a film.

Emma
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.

Rob
It's b) Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for Best Actress.

Emma
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.

Rob
When the police arrived, Dad was cooking dinner. Good old dad. Still cooking that dinner. What a hero!

Emma
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.

Both
Bye!

Download

You can download 6 Minute Grammar from our Unit 7 downloads page or from our 6 Minute Grammar podcast page.

So, Finn saw the film Titanic! And you heard a lot about past verb forms!

Next

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.

Sesión de gramática

  • 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.

    Example
    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.

    Example
    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.

     

Sesión de vocabulario