Unit 11: Past tenses | Grammar | B1
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Unit 11: Past tenses | Grammar | B1

We use the past continuous to talk about something which was in progress at a certain moment or period of time.
E.G. We were sitting in the garden when John arrived.

EXERCISE 1  |  Whodunnit?

Detective Spanner is investigating the case of the stolen apples from the orchard at Treetop Farm. He is interviewing a group of schoolboys:
Complete the dialogue using the past continuous. The first one is done for you:

DS: And where were you on the evening of the 19th of October?

1st boy: I was at home, sir. I was doing (do) my homework.

2nd boy: So was I. Laura and I 1.______________ (sit) at home.
We 2.______________ (watch) TV; you can ask our mum.

DS: What programme 3.______________ you ______________ (watch) at 5:30 p.m.?

2nd boy: I 4.______________ (watch) Blue Peter, sir.

DS: Mmmm... and you, young man. What 5.______________ you ______________ (do) on that evening?

3rd boy: I 6.______________ (eat) my dinner, sir.

DS: And you?

4th boy: I 7.______________ (have) a bath.

5th boy: And I 8.______________ (play) football.

6th boy: I 9.______________ (help) my Dad wash the dishes. Jim 10.______________ (listen) to a new record and Sarah 11.______________ (get) ready to go to her dance class. Julian 12.______________ (make) a costume for the carnival.

DS: You’re all lying! You 13.______________ (steal) apples from Treetop Farm! I saw you!

We use the present perfect continuous to express an action which is in progress at the moment of speaking but also extends backwards into the past for a specific period of time introduced by for, or with the point of past time when the action began introduced by since.
E.G. I’ve been working here for two hours.
We’ve been waiting here since ten o’clock.


Mr Boris Megabucks, the famous merchant banker, talks about his life in this exclusive interview with our reporters at Finance Weekly.

Complete the interview using the present perfect continuous tense, as in the first example:

‘I live in New York,’ says Mr Megabucks.

‘I’ve been living in New York for twelve years.’

1. ‘I work at the National Bank.’

‘I ______________________ at the National Bank since 1985.’

2. ‘I have Japanese lessons.’

‘I ______________________ Japanese lessons for four years.’

3. ‘Every summer I go to Japan on holiday.’

‘I ______________________ to Japan on holiday every summer for three years.’

4. ‘I make model aeroplanes in my spare time.’

‘I ______________________ model aeroplanes in my spare time since I was a little boy.’

5. ‘I am writing a book about banking.’

‘I ______________________ a book about banking for two years.’

6. ‘I go to “The Swan” for a drink every Saturday night.’

‘I ______________________ to “The Swan” for a drink every Saturday night since 1977.’

‘I drink German and American beer.’

‘I ______________________ German and American beer for many years.’


Complete the gaps in the sentences, using either the past continuous form or the present perfect continuous of the verbs given in brackets.

1. I _________ _________ (wash) my hair when the phone rang.

2. _________ you _________ (cry)? Your eyes are all red.

3. My father _________ _________ (talk) to my English teacher for the last two hours.

4. Who _________ _________ (use) the computer before I arrived?

5. You _________ not _________ (look) well for days now. Why don't you go to the doctor?

6. Maria _________ _________ (work) In London when she met and married Jeremy.

7. Where have you been? I _________ _________ (try) to contact you all morning.

8. Susan _________ _________ (feel) quite happy until she saw her exam results.