Simple Past vs. Past Progressive

The simple past is used to talk about activities or situations that began and ended at a particular time in the past (e.g., yesterday, last night, two days ago, in 1990), as in (a) and (b). We use the past progressive when the time in the past is not specific.

Simple Past
(a) Mary walked downtown yesterday.
(b) I slept for eight hours last night.

The past progressive expresses an activity that was in progress (was occurring, was happening) at a point of time in the past (e.g., at 6.10) or at the time of another action (e.g., when Tom came.) In (c): Eating was in progress at 6:10; eating was in progress when Tom came.

Past Progressive
(c) I sat down at the dinner table at 6:00 P.M. yesterday.
Tom came to my house at 6:10 p.m.
I was eating dinner when Tom came to my house.
(d) I went to bed at 10 p.m. The phone rang at 11:00.
I was sleeping when the phone rang.
was, were + verb + ing.
(e) When the phone rang, I was sleeping. when = at that time
(f) The phone rang while I was sleeping. while = during that time
Sentences e and f. have the same meaning.
(g) While I was doing my homework, my roommate was watching TV.
In g : When two actions are in progress at the same time, the past progressive can be used in both parts of the sentence.

Forms of the Past Progressive
STATEMENT{I-She-He-It} was working.{You-We-They} were working.
NEGATIVE{I-She-He-It} was not {wasn't} working.{You-We-They} were not {weren't working.}

Was {I-she-he-it} working? Were {you-we-they} working?
What was {he-she-it} doing? What were {you-they} doing?
Yes, {I-she-he-it} was. No, {I-she-he-it} wasn't.
Yes, {you-we-they} were. No, {you-we-they} weren't.

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