The Past Continuous Tense - Negative sentences



For today's English grammar lesson, we look at making negative sentences using the past continuous tense.  It will be helpful to review the lesson about making affirmative sentences using the same tense. 

Past continuous tense word order

We use the helping verb 'to be' (i.e. was or were) and the base form of the verb + -ing to make past continuous negative sentences. The basic word order for this tense is: the helping verb 'to be' + not + the base form of the verb + -ing.

subject
helping verb + not
the base form
of the verb + -ing
I
was not
(wasn't)
flying.
You
were not
(weren't)
shouting.
We
were not
(weren't)
kneeling.
They
were not
(weren't)
leading.
He
was not
(wasn't)
bowing.
She
was not
(wasn't)
rowing.
It
was not
(wasn't)
burning.

  • Max and Mona weren't stealing money from their employers.
  • The phone wasn't ringing for a long time. 
  • My friend and I weren't fighting about the girl.
  • I wasn't beating the cat with a stick. 

Common mistakes with negative sentences

Some students use the determiner 'no' instead of the adverb 'not':

John was no playing the guitar. X
John was not playing the guitar.
John wasn't playing the guitar. 

Sam and Susan were no writing a book about Geography. X 
Sam and Susan were not writing a book about Geography. 
Sam and Susan weren't writing a book about Geography. 

The estate agent and the police officer were no running in a race. X
The estate agent and the police officer were not running in a race.
The estate agent and the police officer weren't running in a race.

My parents and I were no having dinner together. X
My parents and I were not having dinner together.
My parents and I weren't having dinner together.

As with all the continuous tenses, students often use the base form of the verb instead of the base form of the verb + -ing. We use the base form of the verb when we make past simple negative sentences. Look at these examples:

The cheerleaders weren't throw the balls in the air. X
The cheerleaders weren't throwing the balls in the air. (past continuous tense)
The cheerleaders didn't throw the balls in the air. (past simple tense)

I wasn't light the candle. X
I wasn't lighting the candle. (past continuous tense)
I didn't light the candle. (past simple tense)

The taxi drivers weren't drive in a circle. X
The taxi drivers weren't driving in a circle. (past continuous tense)
The taxi drivers didn't drive in a circle. (past simple tense) 

My friends weren't hit the ball with the baseball bat. X
My friends weren't hitting the ball with the baseball bat.  (past continuous tense)
My friends didn't hit the ball with the baseball bat. (past simple tense)

Finally students also get confused between when to use which helping verb (i.e. was and were). Look at these example sentences:

I weren't paying my electricity bill. X
I wasn't paying my electricity bill.

Max and Mona wasn't ringing the bell. X
Max and Mona weren't ringing the bell.

Angelina Jolie weren't thanking everyone for her Oscar. X
Angelina Jolie wasn't thanking everyone for her Oscar.

My daughters-in-law wasn't drawing pictures. X
My daughters-in-law weren't drawing pictures. 


Lesson Vocabulary

employer (noun) = The person or the company that you work for is your employer. 

employee (noun) = If you have a company or you are a boss, the person who works for you is your employee. If you work for a company or a boss, you are an employee.  

Geography (noun) = It is a subject where you learn about the Earth and all its natural parts e.g. rivers, seas, lakes, mountains, continents, etc. 

estate agent (noun)

police officer (noun)

cheerleader (noun)

candle (noun)


Exercise

Your turn! Write down 10 past continuous negative sentences using the verbs below. For example: (0) dance - The boy and the girl weren't dancing under the stars. 

(1) drive (2) have (3) ring (4) draw (5) thank (6) light (7) run (8) write (9) play (10) fight

Please leave your answers in the comments section and I will gladly give you some feedback. Good luck! 

14 comments:

M. Hakim said...

Hi Francois, thanks a lot for this lesson.Here is 10 sentences using mentioned verbs: (1) drive:The driver was not driving then. (2) have: He was not having dinner. (3) ring: He was not ringing the bell. (4) draw: I was not drawing picture at that time. (5) thank: He was thanking him for this. (6) light: He was not lighting the candle. (7) run: He was not running after the car. (8) write: He was not writing a letter. (9) play: Mr. Backer was not playing cricket. (10) fight: They were not fighting in the battle field.

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Thank you for doing this exercise, M.

These sentences are all correct except for numbers 4, 5 and 10:

4) I was not drawing picture at that time. X
I was not drawing a picture at that time.
- You need to use the indefinite article(a) in this sentence.
5) This is an affirmative sentence.
10) They were not fighting in the battle field. X
They were not fighting on the battlefield.
- If you use the preposition 'in', it means they were underground. Compare these 2 sentences:
They were fighting IN the battle.
They were fighting ON the battlefield.
- 'Battlefield' is one word.

kazuo nishi said...

(1)I was not driving then.
(2)He wasn't having a test.
(3)The bell was not ringing when I arrived there
(4)My cousin was not drawing pictures, she was just looking at them someone had drawn.
(5)My wife was not thanking for my help.
(6)He wasn't lighting the cigarette when I looked at him.
(7)They were not running away when the big earthquake happened.
(8)My mother was not writing a letter.
(9)I was not playing the piano.
(10)Tom was not fighting with Kent, but with John.

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Thank you for taking the time to do this exercise, Kazuo.

They are all correct except for numbers 3-5.

3)The bell was not ringing when I arrived there X
The bell was not ringing when I arrived there. X
- Please remember to use a full stop(.) at the end of the sentence.
4) My cousin was not drawing pictures, she was just looking at them someone had drawn. X
My cousin was not drawing pictures; she was just looking at the ones that someone else had drawn.
- You need to separate these 2 sentences using either a semi-colon(;) or a full stop(.)
5) My wife was not thanking for my help. X
My wife was not thanking me for my help.
- In English, we say thank somebody for something. Look at these examples:
I thanked for the money. X
I thanked my brother for the money.
John and Mary were thanking for their car. X
John and Mary were thanking them for their car.

Anonymous said...

1- He wasn't driving when I called him.
2- I wasn't having an excellent trip.
3- His mobile phone wasn't ringing for a while when the film started.
4- They weren't drawing in class at this time yesterday.
5- You weren't thanking me for my advice.
6- She wasn't lighting any lantern because of the rain.
7- The children weren't running out for fun.
8- He wasn't writing a novel when someone knocked the door.
9- They weren't playing games when their teacher came into the classroom.
10- We weren't fighting for the capitalism.

Thank you
mt203948

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Dear mt203948

Thank you very much for your answers to the exercise. You did a good job with these :-)

The answers are correct except for numbers 6, 8, and 10.

6) She wasn't lighting any lantern because of the rain. X
She wasn't lighting any lanterns because of the rain.
- any + plural, countable noun/uncountable noun
- 'Lantern' is a countable noun so you should use the plural form.
8) He wasn't writing a novel when someone knocked the door. X
He wasn't writing a novel when someone knocked on the door.
- In English we say knock ON something e.g.
He knocked the window. X
He knocked on the window.
He knocked the cupboard. X
He knocked on the cupboard.
10) We weren't fighting for the capitalism. X
We weren't fighting for capitalism.
- We are speaking about capitalism in general here so it is better NOT to use an article. Look at these examples:
The capitalism in that country is out of control.
Capitalism in that country is out of control. X
Capitalism has its advantages and its disadvantages.
The capitalism has its advantages and its disadvantages. X

Have a good day!

Greetings

Francois

Ирина said...

1 He wasn't driving back to his motel .
2 We weren't having dinner when Suzy arrived.
3 I wasn't ringing up him.
4 Mona wasn't drawing the picture but her face was dirty.
5 The daughter wasn't thanking her parents for the gift.
6 The worker wasn't lightning the lighthouse.
7 Jane wasn't running fast.
8 Suzy wasn't writing a letter on her word processor.
9 The children weren't playing in the sitting- room.
10 The government wasn't fighting the criminals.

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Thanks for doing the exercise, Irina!

There are some good sentences here. They are all correct except for numbers 3, 6, and 9.

3) I wasn't ringing up him. X
I wasn't ringing him up.
- You have to separate the phrasal verb (ring up). Look at these examples:
I rang up her. X
I rang her up.
I rang the girl up.
6) The worker wasn't lightning the lighthouse. X
The worker wasn't lighting the lighthouse.
- 'LightNing' and 'lighting' do not have the same meaning. 'LightNing' is a flash of bright light in the sky.
9) The children weren't playing in the sitting- room. X
The children weren't playing in the sitting room.
- 'Sitting room' is two words.

Ирина said...

Thank you very much!!! I try to correct my mistakes.
Take care.

Francois Oosthuizen said...

You are welcome, Irina. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Mohammed Ahmed said...

1- I wasn't driving a car.
2- He wasn't having breakfast.
3- You weren't ringing the bell.
4- We weren't drawing a picture.
5- She wasn't thanking her father.
6- They weren't lighting a candle.
7- It wasn't running out side.
8- They weren't writing a story.
9- He wasn't playing football.
10- We weren't fighting a government.

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Thank you for doing the exercise, Mohammed!

There are some real good sentences here!

There only 2 mistakes:

7) It wasn't running out side. X
It wasn't running outside.
'Outside' is one word.
10)We weren't fighting a government. X
We weren't fighting the government.
- A country has one government so we use the definite article(the).

Thanh Tung said...

1. I wasn't driving car to the school.
2. My co-workers and I weren't having lunch together.
3. He wasn't ringing to her.
4. My son wasn't drawing a red circle.
5. She wasn't thanking me to sing a song.
6. My mom wasn't lighting a fire.
7. We weren't running round the park.
8. My sister wasn't writing a comic.
9. My friends weren't playing football.
10. Her boyfriend and I weren't fighting.

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Thank you for doing the exercise, Thanh!

There are some great sentences here!
1) I wasn't driving car to the school. X
I wasn't driving to the school.
- You do not need to say 'car' because it is assumed that you are talking about one.
2) Great!
3) He wasn't ringing to her. X
He wasn't ringing her.
- You do not need to use a preposition after the verb 'ring'.
4) Great!
5) She wasn't thanking me to sing a song. X
- In English, we say thank somebody FOR something.
- You should use a gerund(verb + -ing) or a noun after 'for'.
Look at these examples:

I wasn't thanking him for send me flowers. X
I wasn't thanking him to send me flowers. X
I wasn't thanking him for sending me flowers.
I wasn't thanking him for the flowers.
6) Great!
7) Good!
8) Correct!
9) Good!
10) Great!

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