The simple past tense and the past continuous tense are so often confused ,so I think it's a good idea to revise them together and see how they differ.
In the simple past tense a specific time is used to show when an action began and finished but in the past continuous tense a specific time only interrupts the action :
-Last night at 8 PM ,I ate dinner. ( I started eating at 8 PM ).
- Last night at 8 PM ,I was eating dinner ( I started earlier,and at 8 Pm ,I was in the process of eating dinner ).
We use the past continuous tense :
1- To talk about activities that continued for sometime in the past:
- He was watching TV all evening.
-They were playing football at 4 PM yesterday.
- Yesterday at this time, I was reading a book.
When or While are used in this case: ( while is always followed by a past continuous clause ):
- While I was writing the email,the computer suddenly went off.
-It started to rain while we were having a picnic.
- I was watching TV when she called.
- He was sleeping last night when someone stole his car.
- What were you doing when you broke your leg?
We form the past continuous with : was /were + -ing .
Negatives and questions :
-He wasn't paying attention to the lesson .
- Were they sleeping when I called?
- What were you doing at 8 AM yesterday?
- Weren't you walking out when the acciedent happened?
whenever you think of using the past continuous tense ,ask your self the question:"
Is it important to the sense that this activity went on continuously? Even this activity did go for along time in the past ,is this fact important to the sense??
Change the infinitives in brackets to either the simple past or past continuous tenses :
1- He ( spend ) three years in London when he was a young man.
2- While I ( learn) English I often ( confuse) the tenses.
3- What ( be) you doing at eight o'clock yesterday evening?
4- Our team ( win ) the championship last year.
5-He ( study ) when the light went out.
6- The doctor said that he ( be ) too sick to go out and that he ( need ) to stay home a couple of days.
7- When the visitors ( come ) ,he ( read ) the newspaper.
8- What were you doing when I ( call ) you yesterday morning?
Thank you for reading