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In this episode: The Past Continuous
Listener Feedback: Javier from Burgos
This is Javier from Burgos. I am a lecturer of environmental chemistry at the University of Burgos.
I would like to congratulate you on your podcasts. I have found them very useful to improve my listening skills.
I am quite used to reading and writing in English due to my job (mostly scientific papers writen in an academic and formal style) but my oral and listening skills are not at the same level.
The other day, my eldest son got the “Play Station” as a Christmas present.
He was playing a game where the characters were speaking in American English.
They talked so fast and probably used a lot of slang that I could hardly understand a thing. It was so frustrating!
I know that your podcasts have an educational purpose and you make an effort to speak clearly and more or less slowly.
I understand you reasonably well when you speak but the event regarding my son’s game left me shattered (destrozado, destruido).
Well, I guess that it is all a matter of time (spending time listening and listening) and never giving up.
Finally, I would like to tell you that your podcasts are a good fun and you are funny too.
I have seen your photos on your podcast webpage and you “have a face of good people”
(I am afraid that I have not translated properly the Spanish sentence: “tenéis cara de buenas personas” – you look/seem nice).
But, who is Reza and who is Craig in the picture?. Who is the one wearing glasses and who is the one holding a cup (of tea, I guess)?
(Reza’s the one wearing glasses and Craig is drinking tea)
If only one of you were eating biscuits, I would know who it is, ja, ja. Sorry for the joke!
Kind regards from Burgos,
Listen to a wide variety of English accents to improve your listening (BBC, CNN, VOA, TV series, FIlms in original version, video games, songs in English, our podcasts! and TED talks:
When do we use the past continuous?
At the beginning of a story:
This morning, when I went out to get some milk, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, people were driving to work and walking to school…
To talk about something which happened at a particular moment in the past, often starting before that moment and continuing after it.
Example: What were you doing at 10 o’clock this morning?
At 10 o’clock this morning Craig was working on his computer.
Reza was having a shower.
I was making tea when Reza rang the bell. (compare with:”Reza rang the bell, he came in, I made tea, I took out the biscuits.”)
Use the present continuous when two actions are happening parallel to one onother in the past:
As I was making tea, Reza was telling me about his weekend.
While Reza was preparing the dinner, his girlfriend was watching TV.
I was dreaming about this beautiful girl when suddenly my alarm clock rang.
What were you doing at 9 o’clock last night?
Where were you at 11 am yesterday morning?
¡OJO! Not all long actions in the past are expressed with the past continuous tense. (“Reza lived in Salamanca for two years.” – Past simple)
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We also use the past continuous:
….for something that was happening again and again:
I was practising Spanish every day for at least an hour.
He was having an affair with his secretary.
They were always eating in expensive restaurants.
with verbs which show change or growth:
My two daughters were growing up quickly.
My Spanish was improving.
My hair was going grey.
How do you form the past continuous? – Use the past of the verb TO BE (was/were) + ing – Examples: “I was editing a podcast when my mum rang.” / “Reza and I were having a beer when we saw a student walk past.”
The question form: “What were you doing yeasterday at 11am?”
The negative form: “I was NOT watching TV this morning.” – “We were not drinking beer.” – Contractions: “I wasn’t watching TV, I was working on my computer.” – “We weren’t drinking beer, we were having a conversation.”
“I was wondering if you’d like to come out to dinner tonight.”
…and now it’s your turn to practise your English. We want you to give us some personal examples of past continuous and present perfect continuous. Answer the question: “What were you doing when you were listening to this podcast?”
Send us a voice message. speakpipe.com/inglespodcast (90 seconds – need an app for mobile)
Send us an email with a comment or question to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
On next week’s episode: Politics and Government
The music in this podcast is by Pitx. The track is called ‘See You Later’