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The Past Continuous Tense (Passive Voice)

1. Review: the past continuous tense

The past continuous tense talks about:
1. an action happening in the past when another action happens
2. an action happening at a particular time in the past
3. two actions happening at the same time in the past

For the past continuous tense there must be two events.

To make the past continuous, use:
was …ing

Past event/timeWhat was happening?
(past continuous)
Full sentence
when the storm struckhe was sleepingHe was sleeping when the storm struck.
when the doorbell rangTyson was watching TVTyson was watching TV when the doorbell rang.
last nightGeorgina was playing cardsGeorgina was playing cards last night.
at 4 o’clockI was travelling to an interview“What were you doing at 4 o’clock?”
I was travelling to an interview.”
while you were cookingyou were listening to the CDYou were listening to the CD while you were cooking.
while we were holding the meetingPeter was talking to the managerPeter was talking to the manager while we were holding the meeting.

2. Turning the past continuous tense into its passive voice

The passive voice changes ‘x did something to y’ into ‘y had something done to it by x’.

To make the passive voice of the past continuous:
1. swap the subject and object
2. change ‘was …ing’ into ‘was being + p.p.’

*Perfect participle (p.p.) = gone, done, seen, eaten etc.

3. Examples of the past continuous tense in the passive voice

Past continuousPast continuous (passive)
They were cooking dinner when I saw them.The dinner was being cooked when I saw them.
Roger was listening to the record at 11 last night.The record was being listened to by Roger at 11 last night.
He was cleaning her bike when I visited.Her bike was being cleaned when I visited.
A tiger was eating his dog when he came home.His dog was being eaten by a tiger when he came home.

4. Exercises

1. Change these sentences into the passive voice:
(i) She was washing the dog when it ran away.
(ii) The typhoon was blowing the furniture down the street when they came home.
(iii) The teacher was teaching the class when the fire alarm rang.

2. Change these sentences out of the passive voice:
(i) Four lions were being chased by 100 wildebeest.
(ii) The house was terrible: rain water was being collected by a bucket in the middle of the room.
(iii) The suspected thieves were being watched by the detectives as they walked towards the bank.

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