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Grammar 18 - The Present and Past Continuous Tenses
"She is reading a book." - Is this sentence in the present or the past continuous tense?

Grammar 18 - The Present and Past Continuous Tenses

In the previous two quizzes we learnt about the present continuous tense and the past continuous tense. To recap, the present continuous tense is formed by adding the helping verb "to be" (in the present tense - ARE, IS and AM) to the PRESENT PARTICIPLE of the main verb. The past continuous tense is formed by adding the same helping verb ‘to be’ (in the past tense – WAS or WERE) to the PRESENT PARTICPLE of the main verb.

We have also learnt that an interrogative form is expressed by placing the helping verb before the subject and a negative form is expressed by placing ‘NOT’ between the helping verb and the main verb (present participle).

While the present continuous tense is used to describe an action in progress and the continuity of the action or just the continuity of the action, it can also be used to describe an action in progress, but not necessarily at the time of expression. For instance - ‘India IS IMPORTING oil from IRAQ’ or ‘What ARE you READING these days?’.

Similarly, while the past continuous tense is used to describe an action that was happening in the past at the time of expression when the time of action may or may not be expressed, it can also be used, along with simple past tense, to describe a previous action going on when a later action happened - ‘My brother WAS WATCHING TV when I reached home’.

Tenses are easy to master - if you are not tense! Take this quiz and refresh your learning of present and past continuous tenses.

1.
"What --- Sunita --- today?" Choose the verbs expressing the present continuous tense to fill up the blanks.
Is --- reciting
Are --- reciting
Was --- reciting
Am --- reciting
In interrogative forms, the helping verb is placed before the subject and 'is' is used in the case of the singular noun 'Sunita' and the present participle of 'recite' is 'reciting'. Answers 2 and 4 have used the wrong helping verb and Answer 3 is in the past continuous tense
2.
"My sister --- clothes when I reached her house." Choose the verbs expressing the past continuous tense to fill up the blank.
Was washed
Were washing
Is washes
Was washing
Note that 'was' is used for singular and the present participle of 'wash' is 'washing'. This sentence has both past continuous tense in the first part and simple past tense in the second part, denoting that the previous action was going on when the latter action took place. Answers 1 and 3 have not used the present participle of 'wash' and Answer 2 has used the wrong helping verb
3.
"--- Gopinath --- the site?" Choose the verbs expressing the past continuous tense to fill up the blanks.
Is --- surveying
Was --- survey
Are --- surveying
Was --- surveying
In interrogative forms the helping verb is placed before the subject and 'was' is used in the case of the singular noun 'Gopinath' and the present participle of 'survey' is 'surveying'. Answer 1 is in the present continuous tense, Answer 2 has not used the present participle of 'survey' and Answer 3 has used the wrong helping verb
4.
"China --- cheap goods into India." Choose the verbs expressing the present continuous tense to fill up the blank.
Are dumping
Is dumping
Was dumping
Is dumped
'China' is a place in the singular and hence 'is' is the correct helping verb to go with the present participle of 'dump'. Answer 1 has used the wrong helping verb, Answer 3 is in the past continuous tense and Answer 4 has not used the present participle of 'dump'
5.
"--- Raghav --- the baby?" Choose the verbs expressing the past continuous tense to fill up the blanks.
Is --- carrying
Are --- carrying
Am --- carrying
Was --- carrying
In interrogative forms the helping verb is placed before the subject and 'was' is used in the case of the singular noun 'Raghav'. The present participle of 'carry' is 'carrying'. Answer 1 is in the present continuous tense while Answers 2 and 3 have used the wrong helping verbs
6.
"The movie --- at all." Choose the verb expressing the past continuous tense to fill up the blank.
Is not terrifying
Was not terrifying
Are not terrifying
Am not terrifying
In negative forms, 'not' is placed between the helping verb and the main verb (present participle). 'Was' is used for singular and the present participle of 'terrify' is 'terrifying'. Answer 1 is in the present continuous tense and Answers 3 and 4 have used the wrong helping verbs
7.
"The students --- the cricket match they saw." Choose the verbs expressing the present continuous tense to fill up the blank.
Are describing
Were describing
Is describing
Are described
Note that 'are' is used for plural and the present participle of 'describe' is 'describing'. Answer 2 is in the past continuous tense, Answer 3 has used the wrong helping verb and Answer 4 has not used the preset participle of 'describe'
8.
"Why --- they --- their heads?" Choose the verbs expressing the present continuous tense to fill up the blanks.
Are --- breaking
Were --- breaking
Is --- breaking
Am --- breaking
In interrogative forms the helping verb is placed before the subject. 'Are' is used in the case of 'they' and the present participle of 'break' is 'breaking'. Answer 2 is in the past continuous tense and Answers 3 and 4 have used the wrong helping verbs
9.
"The company --- its deal to buy a smaller firm." Choose the verbs expressing the present continuous tense to fill up the blank.
Is not consummate
Was not consummating
Is not consummating
Are not consummating
In negative forms, 'not' is placed between the helping verb and the main verb (present participle). 'Is' is used for singular and the present participle of 'consummate' is 'consummating'. Answer 1 has not used the present participle of 'consummate', Answer 2 is in the past continuous tense and Answer 4 has used the wrong helping verb
10.
"The policeman --- the criminal." Choose the verbs expressing the past continuous tense to fill up the blank.
Is arresting
Were arresting
Was arrest
Was arresting
Note that 'was' is used for singular and the present participle of 'arrest' is 'arresting'. Answer 1 is in the present continuous tense, Answer 2 has used the wrong helping verb and Answer 3 has not used the present participle of 'arrest'
Author:  V T Narendra

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