Taking a break between my examples of different tenses in use, this is a good time to share another English tenses exercise. You may know I’m developing an entire book of exercises to accompany The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide; it’s taken a long time but it’s starting to take shape. I’ve already put together about 100 exercises, mostly drilling the forms, with the exercise below as one of the earliest on comparison and use.

Here, the idea is to choose between the past simple and past continuous based on if a past action was complete or ongoing. This is the second of two exercises in the book – a slightly trickier one, as it introduces context across multiple sentences. It has a mixture of sentences for different vocabulary and various forms, leaning towards an upper intermediate level. Though both options may sometimes seem possible, hopefully the correct answer will be apparent. The book is a work in progress, so if you have any thoughts do let me know!

Past Simple Vs Past Continuous Exercise – Complete or Ongoing Actions

Complete the sentences below by putting the verb in brackets in either the past simple or past continuous form. Remember, the past simple is mostly used for complete actions, while we use the past continuous for ongoing or interrupted actions and processes.

For example:

Q: “Is the new cinema open yet?”

“I think so – when I looked, they _______________ tickets online.” (to sell)

A: “Is the new cinema open yet?”

“I think so – when I looked, they were selling tickets online.”

 

  1. “Are you going on holiday this year?” “No, I _______________ on one already.” (to go)
  2. “I heard you gave up science classes.” “Yes, I thought I _______________ enough.” (to learn / not)
  3. Penny collected model buses for many years. She _______________ to get enough to start a museum. (to try)
  4. “Why are we not producing any more cups?” “Because management _______________ to reduce plastic.” (to decide)
  5. Sparrows _______________ in our loft. We could hear them above us. (to nest)
  6. “What did that sign say?” “I couldn’t see, it _______________ in the wind.” (to sway)
  7. The new restaurant was a massive success. Hundreds of customers _______________ in the first two days. (to come)
  8. “You’re home early tonight.” “Yes, I _______________ back to watch the game.” (to hurry)
  9. Did you see, didn’t the man looked terribly cold? _______________ all over? (he / to shake / not)
  10. “Look at how many burgers I have!” “Wow, _______________ them all?” (to buy)
  11. “Your father called to ask where you were. _______________ him we were going to the beach?” (you / to tell / not)
  12. “I heard they gave Michelle a first class ticket to Bali.” “Yes, I think so – _______________ on the site of a new hotel?” (she / to consult / not)

Answers

  1. “Are you going on holiday this year?” “No, I went on one already.”
  2. “I heard you left your work placement early.” “Yes, I thought I was not learning enough.”
  3. Penny collected model buses for many years. She was trying to find enough to start a museum.
  4. “Why are we not producing any more cups?” “Because management decided to reduce plastic.”
  5. Sparrows were nesting in our loft. We could hear them above us.
  6. “What did that sign say?” “I couldn’t see, it was swaying in the wind.”
  7. The new restaurant was a massive success. Hundreds of customers came in the first two days.
  8. “You’re home early tonight.” “Yes, I hurried back to watch the game.”
  9. Did you see, the man looked terribly cold? Was he not shaking all over?
  10. “Look at how many burgers I have!” “Wow, did you buy them all?”
  11. “Your father called to ask where you were. Did you not tell him we were going to the beach?”
  12. “I heard they gave Michelle a first class ticket to Bali.” “Yes, I think so – was she not consulting on the site of a new hotel?”

 

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