Understanding Grammar - The past continuous
In this week's Premier Skills English Podcast, Jack and Rich talk about interruptions and roleplay a situation where the Premier League is stolen from Chelsea football club. Mr De Bruyne is the main suspect! The language focus is on the past continuous and the different ways we can use it to talk about the past. Your task is to use the past continuous to talk about being interrupted while watching a football match. As always, we also have a new football phrase for you to guess. Enjoy!
Jack: Did you watch the match last night? It was a great game.
Rich: Kind of.
Jack: What do you mean?
Rich: Well, I kept getting interrupted.
Jack: That’s so annoying.
Rich: It was like they knew.
Jack: Who knew what?
Rich: It was like they knew when the best bits were going to happen.
Jack: Who? Who are you talking about?
Rich: My grandma, the dog next door, the builders in the street, the salesperson on the telephone, the kettle, my bladder!
Rich: Let me give you an example. The match kicks off. Nil-nil. Nothing happening. The phone rings… hi grandma … how are you? Yep, I’m a bit busy … yes, of course, I’ll come round on Sunday … I come round every Sunday … OK, yes I’ll go and look … I’m sure it’s there … so I go and look for my grandma’s knitting and when I return ... bang! 1-0. I’ve missed a goal. See you Sunday, Gran! Bye.
Jack: So, you were a bit annoyed?
Rich: If it’d just been my gran it wouldn’t have been a problem but it went on and on like that. I can tell you more if you like?
Jack: Please, go on …
Rich: Hello my name’s Rich
Jack: and I’m Jack
Rich: and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast
Jack: Where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Jack: What’s happening this week, Rich?
Rich: In this week’s podcast, we’re going to speak about grammar. We’re going to look at the past continuous and the past simple and when we use them in the same sentence.
Jack: I was walking down the road when I was attacked by a huge dinosaur.
Rich: Yes, that kind of thing but hopefully we’ll look at a few examples that are a bit more useful.
Jack: We’ll have a task for you to do connected to this area of grammar and don’t forget to listen to the end of the podcast because we have a new football phrase for you to try to guess.
Rich: In this section, we’re going to do two roleplays.
Jack: Roleplay one. Who stole the cup?
Doorbell (dog barking)
Jack: Hello. Can I help you?
Rich: Good afternoon. Are you Mr Kevin De Bruyne?
Jack: Yes ...
Rich: My name is PC Moon. I’m from the Metropolitan police and I was wondering if we could ask you a few questions.
Rich: Err … yes, of course, I was just watching a match, please, come in.
Jack: Quiet fluffy!
Rich: Thank you for agreeing to answer my questions. Remember, you do not have to answer my questions. However, should this matter go to court and you tell the court something which you could have reasonably told me during this interview, the court may be less likely to believe you and that could harm your defence.
Jack: OK, got it. What’s the problem? It sounds serious.
Rich: On the night of June 5th, 2018, the Premier League trophy was stolen from Chelsea football stadium. We have a number of witnesses that spotted you near the stadium on the evening in question. Mr De Bruyne. Could you explain your whereabouts on the night in question?
Jack: June 5th? I was at home all evening. If I remember correctly I was doing a bit of studying and then I watched a film.
Jack: Be quiet fluffy, I’m talking to the police.
Rich: Did you leave the house at all?
Jack: Well, no I don’t think so. Ah yes, the dog was barking outside so I stopped the film and let him in.
Rich: Mmm … the dog was barking. Did you see anything suspicious?
Jack: No, nothing. The dog was barking I gave him some food, he stopped and we carried on watching the film. We were watching Black Panther. It’s very good. Have you seen it?
Rich: No. Did you eat pizza? I see a few pizza boxes around.
Jack: Shhh fluffy! Yes, we did. From the pizza place up next to Stamford Bridge.
Jack: No, like I said, I didn’t leave the house all night. We got it delivered!
Rich: Not a takeaway then? Mmm. No further questions Mr De Bruyne.
Jack: Good boy. No, not you sir, I was talking to the dog.
Rich: Roleplay two. Who found the trophy?
Jack: We’re live in Alexandra Park in Manchester where we are talking to Mr Sterling - the man who has found the Premier League trophy after its disappearance almost three weeks ago. How did you find the Premier League trophy?
Rich: Well, it wasn’t me, to be honest. It’s all down to pickles here.
Jack: The dog?
Rich: Yes, we were walking in the park here as we do on a Saturday afternoon and pickles started barking. No, not now Pickles, we’re on the telly.
Jack: Is that not normal?
Rich: It is, yes, he barks a lot. But he was digging at something. I went over to have a look at what he was doing and I saw that something was shining.
Jack: And then you saw it?
Rich: Yeah, I couldn’t believe it. I really didn’t believe it but then I saw the ribbons around the handles that said Chelsea FC: Premier League winners.
Jack: And then what did you do?
Rich: Well, Pickles started pulling at the ribbons. He’s a City fan you see, probably didn’t like the Chelsea ribbons on the trophy. Quiet Pickles! We took a few photos - a few selfies just having a bit of a laugh. It’s not every day you get to lift the Premier League trophy.
Jack: And then you called the police?
Rich: Yes, I saw on the news that it had been stolen.
Jack: Well Mr Sterling, you and pickles here are certainly the heroes of the day.
Rich: Yeah, well maybe pickles will become as famous as that other dog - the one that found the World Cup back in 66. What was its name again ...
Rich: Mr De Bruyne a suspect and Mr.Sterling’s dog the hero? It sounds like a cover-up to me. I can think of other reasons why the trophy left Chelsea this season.
Jack: Not a robbery?
Rich: No, I don’t think so. Right, anyway, in this week’s podcast, we’re talking about the past continuous. You might have heard us using the past continuous in the roleplays.
Jack: That’s right. One way to use the past continuous is to talk about an event that happened over a long or constant period of time in the past.
Rich: What do you mean when you say long?
Jack: It can actually be a few seconds but it’s something that continues for a period of time. For example, you could say the fans were cheering and shouting. This would mean that they continued cheering for a long time. If you said the fans cheered. It probably means once for a few seconds, after a goal for example.
Rich: In the roleplay, you heard the dog was barking. Here we use the past continuous because the dog didn’t bark once and stop, it continued, like most dogs, for a period of time.
Jack: The past continuous is also used to say what you were doing at or before and after a specific time. For example, in 2001 I was studying at university.
Rich: In the roleplay, Jack said he was doing a bit of studying or he was studying when he was asked what he was doing on the night of June 5th.
Jack: So, we create the past continuous with the verb to be in the past: was or were and then add a verb with -ing. In 2001 I was studying at university. Mr De Bruyne was doing a bit of studying.
Rich: Another reason for using the past continuous is to describe something that was happening when another action interrupted it.
Jack: Like what were you doing when the trophy was stolen.
Rich: Exactly. I said I was watching a film. I also said he stopped the film because his dog was barking.
Jack: We use the past continuous here to show what was happening when another action happened. The other action is usually in the past simple.
Rich: In the roleplay, you heard these examples. Listen for the past continuous and the past simple: the dog was barking outside so I stopped the film and let him in. The dog was barking so I gave him some food. We were walking in the park and pickles started barking. I went over to have a look at what he was doing.
Jack: In all of these examples the past continuous is interrupted by the past simple. In the next section, we want you to write some similar sentences. If you want more information about the past continuous, take a look at the page below this podcast.
Rich: Your task this week is to listen to the first section of the podcast again.
Jack: Rich was talking about all the problems and interruptions he had while trying to watch a match.
Rich: But, when I was speaking, I didn’t use the past continuous. That’s your job!
Jack: We want you to think of each interruption and write a sentence about it.
Rich: Here are the interruptions again if you’d prefer to think about them now.
Jack: Interruption one: Rich’s grandma.
Rich: Interruption two: the dog next door.
Jack: Interruption three: the builders in the street.
Rich: Interruption four: the salesperson on the phone.
Jack: Interruption five: the kettle.
Rich: Interruption six: my bladder.
Jack: Choose two or three of the interruptions and write a few sentences including the past continuous and past simple. Use the example we did about Rich’s grandma in the opening section to help you.
Rich: Write your answers in the comments section, at the bottom of the page.
Rich: Have you got a football phrase for us this week?
Jack: Yes, I have, but first, last week’s football phrase. The phrase was to go down. It’s a phrasal verb that means to be relegated. Stoke City, West Brom and Swansea have gone down this season.
Rich: Well done to Acicala from Spain, Ahmed Adam from Sudan, Lakerwang from China, Violinka, Sabanoleg and Liubomyr from Ukraine, Milos from Serbia, and Kwesimanifest from Ghana. You all got the right answer! What’s this week’s football phrase?
Jack: This week’s football phrase is ***** *****. This is the first round of lots of football tournaments such as the Champions League and the World Cup. It’s like a mini-league usually of four teams who play each other once or twice. If a team qualifies from the ***** ***** they move forward to the knockout rounds.
Rich: I’ve got it. Let’s see who else can get it right.
Jack: Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below.
Rich: Keep an eye on our homepage this week as we have lots of new content related to the World Cup in Russia.
Jack: If you have enjoyed this podcast or found it useful, leave us a rating or review and that will help other people find us.
Rich: Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used some words and phrases that might be new for you. Do you know the words in bold?
The court may be less likely to believe you and that could harm your defence.
We have a number of witnesses that spotted you near the stadium.
There were a few tricky words in the podcast. Do you know what they all mean? Try the activity below, then, listen to the podcast again to hear how we used the words.
In this week's podcast, Jack and Rich spoke about the past continuous. We create the past continuous with the verb to be (was/were) + verb in -ing form:
In 2001, I was studying at university.
Two of the main ways we use the past continuous are: to talk about something that continued for a long or continuous period of time in a specific time in the past; and to say what was happening before or when another action happened. Let's look at these uses in more detail.
To show that something was happening for a long time:
We often use the past continuous when we are talking about something happened for a long time or longer than usual. Here are some examples:
The fans were singing and cheering until late at night.
The man was shouting in the street and wouldn't be quiet.
Talking about an action which happened at a specific time in the past:
We often use the past continuous when we are talking about an action that happened over a period of time in the past. In the podcast, you heard:
After the match, the fans were cheering and shouting.
In 2001, I was studying at university.
These examples are different in length of time but are being used in the same way. The fans were cheering and shouting again and again, so it is better to use the continuous form when an action is repeated over a period of time. Going to university is also a repeated action, so the continuous form can be used.
Talking about an action that interrupts another action:
We often use the past continuous to describe what was happening before or at the same time as something else. In the podcast, you heard:
We were walking in the park when the dog started to bark.
The dog was barking so I stopped the film and let him in.
These examples show the continuous form being used to describe what was happening when something else happened. The action that happens first (walking, barking) is in the past continuous while the action that interrupts the first action (started, stopped) is in the past simple.
If you would like to learn more about the past continuous, try the exercise below, or take a look on our Learn English website.
Find out more about Pickles and the stolen World Cup.
Choose a scenario
At the beginning of the podcast, Rich complained a lot about being interrupted while he was trying to watch the match. He spoke in detail about his grandmother. He then listed some other interruptions. Your task is to choose between one and three of the interruptions below and write in detail about them. When you write your answers you need to use the past continuous. Listen again to the first section of the podcast to help you. Here are the interruptions that Rich mentioned:
- Interruption one: Rich’s grandma
- Interruption two: the dog next door
- Interruption three: the builders in the street
- Interruption four: the salesperson on the phone
- Interruption five: the kettle
- Interruption six: Rich's bladder
What do you think?
In this week’s podcast, Rich complained about being interrupted while watching a match.
Do you often get interrupted? How do you feel?
When do you get interrupted most often?
Pickles the dog was very clever to find the missing trophy. Do you think dogs are clever? Do you prefer dogs or cats?
Look at the task above and answer the questions here.
Remember to write your guess at this week's football phrase, too!