Past Simple vs. Past Continuous ESL Activities and Worksheets

What were you doing when...?

ESL Past Simple vs. Past Continuous Activity - Writing, Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 30 minutes

This engaging past simple vs. past continuous activity helps students practice forming and answering questions with the past simple and past continuous. Divide the students into two groups (A and B) and give each student a corresponding worksheet. Working alone or with other members of their group, the students complete the questions on the worksheet in the past simple or past continuous using the verbs in brackets. When the students have finished, check the questions with each group. Next, pair each student up with someone from the other group. The students then guess what their partner's answer will be for each question and write their guesses in the chart. After that, the students take it in turns to ask the questions to their partner. Students answer their partner's questions in the past simple or past continuous, according to the tense of each question. Students write their partner's answers in the chart and put a tick next to each correct guess. The student with the most correct guesses wins. Afterwards, have the students share what they found out about their partner with the class.
What were you doing when...? Preview
 

When and While

ESL When and While Worksheet - Reading and Writing Exercises - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 30 minutes

In this when and while worksheet, students learn and practice three rules associated with using 'when' and 'while' with the past simple and past continuous. Give each student a copy of the two-page worksheet. Students begin by completing two grammar rules and examples for using the past simple and past continuous with 'when' and 'while'. Students then underline the correct past tenses in a set of sentences using the two rules. Next, students complete a short story with verbs in brackets in their past simple or past continuous form using the rules. After that, students are introduced to another rule for using when and while. The students then indicate whether they can use 'when', 'while' or 'both' as the missing word in each sentence. Finally, students complete sentences with their own ideas using the grammar rules from the second page.
When and While Worksheet Preview

Interactive Version - This when and while interactive worksheet helps to teach students three rules for using the past simple and past continuous with 'when' and 'while'.

 

Accidental Inventions

ESL Past Simple and Past Continuous Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Intermediate (B1) - 30 minutes

In this free past simple and past continuous activity, students take on the role of famous inventors and find out about accidental inventions in order to practice the two tenses. Divide the students into groups of five. Give each student an inventor card and a copy of the worksheet. Explain that each student is going to take on the role of a famous inventor, who invented something by accident. The students' task is to find out how the other inventors in their group accidently created their inventions. In order to do this, they must ask questions to each inventor in their group to find out what happened. To begin, students fill in the gaps on their inventor card, explaining what happened, using the past simple or past continuous form of the verbs in brackets. Students then go around their group asking questions and noting down the answers for each inventor in the chart. When the students have finished, they use the information in the chart and inventions from a box to complete past simple and past continuous sentences, indicating what each invention was, who invented it, and how. Finally, check the correct answers with the class.
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Past Simple vs. Past Continuous

ESL Past Simple vs. Past Continuous Worksheet - Reading and Writing Exercises - Intermediate (B1) - 35 minutes

This past simple and past continuous worksheet helps students learn and practice how and when to use the past continuous, in contrast with the past simple. Give each student a copy of the two-page worksheet. Students begin by reading situations and categorizing them based on whether the past simple or past continuous is used. Next, students complete sentences using verbs in brackets in the past simple or past continuous, as appropriate for the situation. Students then match past simple and past continuous sentences with the situations in Exercise A. After that, students match timelines with the situations in Exercise A. The students then write past simple or past continuous sentences corresponding to the timelines using prompts, adding time adverbs, and other information where appropriate. When the students have finished, review their sentences together as a class and give feedback.
Past Simple vs Past Continuous Worksheet Preview

Interactive Version - Here is a past simple vs. past continuous interactive worksheet to help students learn how and when to use the past simple, in contrast with the past continuous.

 
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