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Welcome to the Grammar Gameshow! Test your knowledge in this crazy quiz! The presenter is a bit strange, the points don't make sense and the prizes could use some improvement, but at least the grammar is correct!

 

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Episode 9: The past continuous

Mya’s reign of triumph is over! Now Helen reigns supreme! But can she hold on to her crown? First she’ll have to survive the battle round! In this episode, our contestants square up to questions about the past continuous! Can Helen hold on? Will you be able to answer our questions? Will Will ever play fair? Watch and see!

Watch the video and then test yourself below with our quiz

Hiển thị văn bản ghi âm (hay video) Giấu văn bản ghi âm (hay video)

Will
Hello and welcome to the Grammar Gameshow! I’m your host, Will! – but I’ll change for person and time! And of course, let’s not forget Leslie, our all-knowing voice in the sky.

Leslie
Welcome, everyone!

Will
Tonight we’re going to be asking three questions about…

Leslie
The past continuous tense! 

Will
OK! Now, let’s meet our contestants!

Helen
Hi everyone. I’m Helen!

Will
Contestant number 2?

Greg
Hi, everyone. I’m Greg!

Will
Welcome back Helen! Ok. Let’s get going, and don’t forget you can play along at home too. Our first round is a battle round. Contestants ask each other questions about the past continuous until one of them makes a mistake. Helen do you want to start?

Helen
Yes, please!

Will
That’s a shame! Greg, you can go first…

Greg
Oh! Right! What is the formula for the past continuous?

Helen
‘Was’ or ‘were’ + ‘VerbING’. Ha ha! What do we use the past continuous for?

Greg
Actions which are in progress at a past time. Ha ha - yes! Give me an example.

Helen
I was eating dinner at 6pm last night. Ha ha! Do we use the past continuous with state verbs?

Greg
No, not usually. Ha ha – yes! Do we usually use the past continuous with repeated actions?

Helen
Yes!

Will
Oh! That was vicious! Well played, but Helen, you made a mistake there. Leslie?

Leslie
Mostly right! The past continuous is used to describe actions that were in progress at a past time. It is constructed with ‘was’ or ‘were’ and ‘verbING’ - and, being continuous, it does not usually use state verbs. However, it does not usually describe repeated actions or habits either. Sorry Helen, that’s the past simple.

Will
Sorry Helen. 20 points to Greg. Let’s move on to our next round. Which one of these sentences is incorrect and why?

a) I was walking when I tripped and fell.
b) I was walking while I tripped and fell.
c) When I was walking, I tripped and fell.
d) While I was walking, I tripped and fell.

Greg
Trick question! They are all correct.

Helen
No, no. B is wrong – we don’t use ‘while’ for quick actions. Ha ha!

Will
Wow. You two are really getting into it! Leslie?

Leslie
We often use the past continuous and past simple together to describe a longer action that is interrupted by a short one. These actions are connected with time words like ‘when’ and ‘while’. However, we do not usually use ‘while’ in front of the short action. Well done Helen.

Will
Well done Helen. 20 points for you! This is exciting. It’s neck and neck! It’s time for our final question. True or false: The past continuous can make you sound more polite.

Helen
True!

Will
It is true! Can you explain how?

Helen
No?

Will
Greg?

Greg
Using the past continuous makes things more polite because it seems temporary and so more casual.

Will
Leslie?

Leslie
Yep. Using the past continuous can make sentences seem more polite by distancing them from the present – this makes them sound more tentative and less assertive. More gentle. For example – ‘I was hoping you could lend me money’ is more polite than ‘I hope you can lend me money’.

Will
Well, this is tricky. Helen you said it was true and Greg you explained it. Who do I give the points to?

Greg
You should give it to me!

Helen
No, I was the one who answered the question

Greg
No you didn’t. I got it right. You should give it to me!

Helen
Oh rubbish!

Will
I know! Wasn’t that easier? And that brings us to the end of today’s Grammar Gameshow. And the winner is…. Me! Well done! Thank you! What have I won?

Leslie
Cash in mixed currency!

Will
It looks like we’ll need two more contestants. Thanks for joining us. Say goodbye Leslie

Leslie
Goodbye, Leslie!

Will
See you next time.

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Did you like that? Why not try these?

TGG_Teaser 6mingram_li_7_past_simple_past_continuous.jpg Academic Writing – Discussion forums

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The Past Continuous

Form and Use
The past continuous is formed using 'was' or 'were' + verbING. It is used to describe actions which were in progress and unfinished at a specific past time. It is a continuous tense, so we do not usually use it with state verbs, such as 'need', 'want' or 'know' and we do not use it to talk about repeated past actions or past habits - that's the past simple tense.
I was sitting at home last night.
Were you cooking when they arrived home?
She wasn't sleeping, she was watching TV.

The interrupted past
The past continuous and past simple are often used to talk about how two past actions happened together, either in parallel or one longer action, usually in the past continuous, that is interrupted by a quicker one, usually in the past simple. To join the two actions, time words such as 'when' and 'while' are used. Many combinations are possible, but we do not put 'while' in front of the shorter action.
While I was eating, she called me on my mobile.
When I arrived, everyone was laughing and dancing.
He was walking when he tripped and fell.

Past continuous for politeness
We can use the past continuous to make sentences and requests seem more polite. This is because they sound less definite, more temporary and more gentle. When using the past continuous in this way, it is possible to use state verbs.
I was hoping that I could borrow the car?
Sorry to interrupt. I was just needing to borrow a pen.

To do

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The Grammar Gameshow Quiz

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You can download the audio and PDF document for this episode here. 

More

That's all from Leslie and the contestants for this episode. Why not go to The Grammar Gameshow homepage to watch another one?