Simple past tense with the past continuous tense

The past continuous tense is used to say that something was in progress around a particular past time.

‘What were you doing at 6 o’clock in the morning?’ ‘I was doing my homework.’

‘What was she doing at 8 am?’ ‘She was getting ready for school.’

‘What were you doing yesterday?’ ‘I was painting all day yesterday.’

I was having a bath when the doorbell rang.

Past continuous tense with the simple past tense

The simple past tense is commonly used with the past continuous tense to talk about shorter actions or events that happened in the middle of the longer action.

I was sleeping when she knocked on the door.

(Here we the past continuous tense to refer to the longer background action and the simple past tense to refer to the shorter action that interrupts the longer action.)

I was cooking when Shiva came.

She was having a bath when the telephone rang.

Use of past time adverbs with the simple past and past continuous tense

The simple past tense and past continuous tenses are commonly used with adverbs of past time. Examples are: yesterday, last week, in the morning, last year, in 1990 etc.

I went to Switzerland in 2006.

She finished her studies in 2001.

She got married in 1995.

He died two years ago.

It rained in the morning.

I met him yesterday.

This is an important difference between the simple past tense and present perfect tense. We cannot use adverbs of past time with the present perfect tense. If we really have to, we use the simple past tense.

I met Manav yesterday. (NOT I have met Manav yesterday.)

She died three years ago. (NOT She has died three years ago.)

I was ill last week. (NOT I have been ill last week.)

I was born in 1979. (NOT I have been born in 1979.)