The past continuous (or past progressive) is a tense that describes an unfinished action in the past. By unfinished we don’t mean that the action never ended. Rather, the action continued or progressed over a period of time.
To form the past continuous, use was or were and the present participle:
The negative form simply adds not:
We were not dating.
Use the regular form to ask questions:
Were you holding hands?
I was mowing the lawn at the time.
We were drawing penguins.
With Other Actions
The past continuous is often used in conjunction with other verbs. Together they relate actions in time:
While we were messaging, Tom’s dad grabbed his phone and threw it out of the window.
Before I went to school, I was reading Asterix and Obelix.
Every day we were conjugating verbs.
It was raining constantly.
To Show Change
Times were changing.
They were learning so many life lessons.
The tomatoes were ripening quickly.
For more information, please see our introduction to all twelve verb tenses in English.