Past progressive: Opening up the past

Here are three short, fun videos that illustrate how the past progressive helps us describe past events in more detail.

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Past progressive: Opening up the past

As we saw in the lesson on the progressive (, the sense of a verb changes when we add “to be” to “ing”. We are telling someone that an action/situation has duration (it takes a period of time), it’s temporary and unfinished at the time we are talking about.

This is very useful in talking about the past. Using the past progressive allows us to talk about an activity or situation in more detail.

In a way, the simple past is like the little icons I have on my computer.

You can see from the video clip icons of our trip to Kanchanburi some time ago that we crossed the Bridge over the River Kwai, we visited the war ceremony, we made a river trip and we visited Erawan Falls.

To see the videos, we need to open the video clips either, by clicking on the icons or tapping on them if we have a smart phone or tablet. Similarly, to talk about these past events, the past progressive allows us to “open” them up because it gives them duration.

Here’s an example. Let’s open the video short clip called “bridge crossing 2” and talk about it.

Normally, we would begin our part progressive description with “while” or “as”. In this case, the verb would be “cross”. Now can you describe what you saw? Pretend you were riding along by using the pronoun “we”. You can see a possible answer at the bottom of the page.

Here are two more video clips, both much more professional than my Kanchanaburi clip.

First is an advertisement for a car. Watch and think about how you might describe what happened. Verbs you might want to use are jog, see, stop, walk over to, look at and come out, grab, take back.

Again, I’ve got a possible description at the bottom of this page.

The last video features model and actress Carmen Electra at a fashion show on a catwalk (the long stage that models walk on during a fashion show พื้นที่ยกสูงขึ้นเป็นทางยาวและแคบ สำหรับนางแบบเดินแบบ

Some verbs you might want to use are walk, slip, fall, help up, come out. Look for a possible description at the bottom of this page.

Possible descriptions

Bridge crossing

While we were crossing the Bridge over the River Kwai, we saw a man playing the violin.
While our train was crossing the Bridge over the River Kwai, we saw a man playing the violin

Vios advertisement

A man was jogging (next to a lake) when he saw a nice-looking car. He stopped and walked over to it. While he was looking at the car, a sea monster (the Lock Ness monster) came out of the water and grabbed him and took him back into the lake.

Carmen Electra

Carmen Electra was walking back towards the entrance to the catwalk when she slipped and fell. A woman at the side helped her up. While she was doing this, another woman came on to the catwalk to help and she slipped and fell down too.

To further understand the past progressive, read the chapter in Understanding English verb forms: The past progressive

You can find a full description of Understanding English verb forms here:

You can buy the book online here:

Related search: Learning English, the past progressive, Understanding English verb forms

About the author

Writer: Terry Fredrickson
Position: Education Marketing and Support Manager