Past Simple and Past Continuous Tense Exercises

This set of exercises will challenge your understanding of the commonly used simple past and past continuous tenses. Choose the correct letter of the answer, then check your answers using the answer key.

What Is the Past Simple Tense?

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The simple past tense describes an action that occurred at a specific moment in the past. Regular verbs follow the typical simple past form with a -d or -ed ending. For example:

  • We talked yesterday.
  • I borrowed her phone last night.

Irregular verbs change their spellings when in the simple past form. For example:

  • He sent me a note two weeks ago.
  • She read the book a while ago.

What Is the Past Continuous Tense?

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The past continuous is used for describing an action that was happening in the past. Here, the speaker emphasizes the past action in progress.

We form this verb tense by using the auxiliary verb was or were with the -ing form of the verb. For example:

  • I was working in the office while she was at home.
  • What were you doing yesterday?

Worksheet 1

We use the simple past tense to talk about actions that are finished. For example:

  • Simple present: I drive him to school all the time.
  • Simple past: I drove him to school yesterday.
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Past Simple and Past Continuous Tense Exercises #1

Past Simple and Past Continuous Tense Exercises #1

Change the sentences into the simple past by choosing the letter of the correct answer.

We go shopping regularly.
The kid eats my chips.
Who steals my phone?
I write books.
I feel good all the time.
Start Over

Worksheet 2

We use the past continuous tense for ongoing actions in the past. For example:

  • Simple present: I wear shoes.
  • Past continuous: I was wearing shoes.
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Past Simple and Past Continuous Tense Exercises #2

Past Simple and Past Continuous Tense Exercises #2

Transform the following sentences into past continuous by choosing the correct answer.

Mr. White does not agree.
The team plays basketball.
I sleep early.
Dean works at the supermarket.
Do you dance?
Start Over

Worksheet 3

We can use the past simple to emphasize the main event while using the past continuous tense for the background event. For example:

  • I was working when he arrived.

The main event, he arrived, is in simple past form. Meanwhile, the background event, I was working, is in the past continuous tense.

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Past Simple and Past Continuous Tense Exercises #3

Past Simple and Past Continuous Tense Exercises #3

This simple past and past progressive exercise combines the two verb tenses. Choose the letter of the correct answer.

When the visitors _________ the doorbell, John _________.
I was ordering my food when an old school friend _________ me.
I _________ my arm when I _________.
My mother _________ to music when my brother _________ her.
Mr. Belmont _________ fruits when the vendor recommended broccoli.
Start Over

Simple Past Tense vs. Past Continuous Summary

I hope these three exercises helped you master the two verb tenses separately and combined. Always use the simple past tense for actions that are already finished and use the past continuous tense for past actions in progress.

When combined, use the simple past tense for the main event and the past continuous for the background situation.

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