Lesson 13
The Past Continuous


Past continuous

We use the past continuous when we want to refer to actions that happened in the past and continued for a period of time.

For example:

  • They were looking at the painting for a long time. Ellos estuvieron mirando el cuadro por largo tiempo.
  • What were you thinking? ¿En qué estabas pensando?
  • I was having breakfast when he arrived. Yo desayunaba cuando él llegó.


Let’s review its structure.

Structure:

  • Affirmative: Subject + was/were + main verb ending in –ing + object Example: I was studying at the library.
  • Negative: Subject + was/were + not + main verb ending in –ing + object. Example: They weren’t studying at home.
  • Question: Was/were+ subject + main verb ending in –ing + object? Were you studying at home?
  • Negative question: Was/were + not + subject + main verb ending in íng + object? Example: Weren’t you studying at home?
  • Answers: Yes, + subject + was/were- No, +subject+not+was/were Examples: Yes, I was- No, I was not.


Spanish equivalent tense
: In Spanish this is not really a tense, it is called “Perífrase verbal durativa” Example: I was studying in the library. Estuve/Estaba estudiando en la biblioteca. The past continuous can also be translated as the “Pretérito imperfecto”. Example: I don’t know what he was saying- No sé lo que él decía.

 

Getting more fluency

The past continuous is a relative simply tense to learn and reproduce, so we will focus our attention on learning sentences by heart to gain fluency. 

As there aren’t many examples of the past continuous in one chapter, I have listed sentences in this tense that can be found in the first 15 chapters of the audiobook below.

Please, listen to them and repeat them aloud.

Remember that you are transforming your way speaking in order to sound more natural and fluent, therefore it’s important that you pay attention to all of the details when repeating the sounds, such as the vibrant “ss” of the word “was”.

 

Spanish English Phonetics Approximate Pronunciation

Basil Hallward estaba sentado admirando el cuadro

Basil Hallward was sitting admiring the painting (Chapter 1)

| ˈbæzl̩ ˈhɒlwərd wəz ˈsɪtɪŋ ədˈmaɪərɪŋ ðə ˈpeɪntɪŋ |

Bássel hólwuard wuass síting ad’mairing de péinting

Él estaba sentado junto al piano

He was sitting at the piano (Chap. 2)

hi wəz ˈsɪtɪŋ ət ðə pɪˈænəʊ

Hi wuass síting at de piánou

La duquesa de Harley, que estaba sentada enfrente

The Duchess of Harley who was sitting in front (Chap. 3)

ðə ˈdʌtʃɪs əv ˈhɑːli huː wəz ˈsɪtɪŋ ɪn frʌnt

De déches of hárli hu wuass síting in front

Al salir por la puerta

As he was going out of the door (Chap. 3)

əz hi wəz ˈɡəʊɪŋ aʊt əv ðə dɔː

As hi wuass góing aut of the dor

Mientras estábamos sentados uno junto al otro

While we were sitting next to each other (Chap. 6)

waɪl wi wə ˈsɪtɪŋ nekst tu iːtʃ ˈʌðə

Wuail wi wuer síting nekst tu ich ader

Él no sabía lo que estaba diciendo

He didn’t know what he was saying (Chap. 7)

hi ˈdɪdnt nəʊ ˈwɒt hi wəz ˈseɪɪŋ

Hi didnt nóu wuat hi wuass séing

Cuando Dorian estaba desayunando

When Dorian was having breakfast (Chap. 9)

wen ˈdɔːiən wəz ˈhævɪŋ ˈbrekfəst

Wuen dórian wuass háving brékfast

Mientras Sybil Vane yacía muerta

As Sybil Vane was lying dead (Chap. 9)

əz ˈsɪbəl veɪn wəz ˈlaɪɪŋ ded |

As sibil vein wuass laing ded

Él estaba sudando

He was sweating (Chap. 9)

hi wəz ˈswetɪŋ

Hi wuas sueting

Él pensó acerca del daño que le estaba haciendo a su alma

He thought about the harm he was doing to his soul (Chap. 10)

hi ˈθɔːt əˈbaʊt ðə hɑːm hi wəz ˈduːɪŋ tu ɪz soul

Hi zót abaut de harm hi wuas dúing tu his soul

Dorian Gray volvía a su casa desde la casa de Lord Henry

Dorian Gray was returning home from Lord Henry’s (Chap. 11)

ˈdɔːiən ɡreɪ wəz rɪˈtɜːnɪŋ həʊm frəm lɔːd ˈhenriz

Dórian gréi wuass reérning houm from lórd henriss

Yo estaba muy interesado en verle (a usted)

I was very interested in seeing you (Chap. 11)

ˈaɪ wəz ˈveri ˈɪntrəstɪd ɪn ˈsiːɪŋ ju |

Ai wuass véri íntrested in síing iu

Las cosas horribles que (ellos) decían de Dorian Gray

The horrible things they were saying about Dorian Gray (Chap. 11)

ðə ˈhɒrəbl̩ ˈθɪŋz ˈðeɪ wə ˈseɪɪŋ əˈbaʊt ˈdɔːiən ɡreɪ

De hóribel zings dei wuer seing abáut dórian gréi

El joven estaba apoyado en la pared, mirando indiferente

The young man was leaning against the wall, looking indifferent (Chap 12)

ðə jʌŋ mæn wəz ˈliːnɪŋ əˈɡenst ðə wɔːl | ˈlʊkɪŋ ɪnˈdɪfrənt

De ian man wuass líning agénst de wuol luking indíferent

Dorian Gray lloraba junto a la ventana

Dorian Gray was crying next to the window (Chap 12)

ˈdɔːiən ɡreɪ wəz ˈkraɪɪŋ nekst tə ðə ˈwɪndəʊ |

Dórian gréi wuass kráing nekst tú de wuíndou

El pintor que estaba sentado en una silla

The painter who was sitting on a chair (Chap .12)

ðə ˈpeɪntə huː wəz ˈsɪtɪŋ ɒn ə tʃeə

De péinter hu wuass síting ona cher

Él se marchaba a París en el tren de la medianoche

He was leaving for Paris by train at midnight (Chap. 12)

hi wəz ˈliːvɪŋ fə ˈpærɪs baɪ treɪn ət ˈmɪdnaɪt

Hi wuass líving for péris bai trein at mídnait

Él iba estar fuera de Inglaterra por una larga temporada

He was going to be away from England for a long time (Chap 12)

hi wəz ˈɡəʊɪŋ tə bi əˈweɪ frəm ˈɪŋɡlənd fər ə ˈlɒŋ ˈtaɪm

Hi wuass góing to bi owuéi from íngland for a long táim

El joven estaba durmiendo en su cama

The young man was sleeping in his bed (Chap 13)

ðə jʌŋ mæn wəz ˈsliːpɪŋ ɪn ɪz bed |

De iang man wuass ssliping in his bed

Él se estaba arrepintiendo de haber venido

He was regretting having come (Chap 14)

hi wəz rɪˈɡretɪŋ ˈhævɪŋ kʌm |

Hi wuass regreting having kam

Un revólver le apuntaba a la cabeza

A revolver was pointing at his head (Chap 15)

ə rɪˈvɒlvə wəz ˈpɔɪntɪŋ ət ɪz hed |

A ri’volver wuass póinting at his hed

Él temblaba de pies a cabeza

He was shaking from head to toe (Chap 15)

hi wəz ˈʃeɪkɪŋ frəm hed tə təʊ |

Hí wuass shéiking from hed tu tóu

 

To sum up:

The past continuous is an easy tense to learn and reproduce, so it’s a good idea to repeat sentences in this tense to increase your fluency and improve your pronunciation.

 

Homework

Continue looking for the past continuous from chapters 16 to 19.

Try to ask and answer questions aloud using the sentences that you find in the past continuous, for example:

  • A revolver was pointing at his head.
  • Was a revolver pointing at his head?
  • Yes, it was.
  • No, it wasn’t.

 

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