English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

How can I use the verb "sad" in the past continuous? E.g.:

I was crying.
I was missing.

What should be the sentences for sad or upset in past continuous? Why do some words like the two above not follow standards? Are these exceptions?

share|improve this question
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Sad is an adjective, so it doesn't have a past form. You'd just say:

I was sad.

There is the verb sadden, however.

I was saddened.

Upset can be a verb, but it's an irregular one. Its simple past (and past participle) form is upset.

I was upset.
I was upset by the news.
The bad news upset me.

Note that both sadden and upset are transitive verbs. (The intransitive usage of sadden is archaic.) So if you are going for past continuous, simply saying

I was upsetting.
I was saddening.

wouldn't really work — it would raise the question, whom were you upsetting/saddening? So instead, you would have to say

I was being upset (by something).
I was being saddened (by something).

share|improve this answer
Upsetting/Saddening can be used as a present participle with subject and object flipped around; e.g., "[Something] was upsetting" with an implied object. – BenOfTomorrow Mar 14 '11 at 17:18
I think native speakers would be much more likely to say "I was feeling upset" than "I was being upset" (unless they were being knocked over, or being defeated in a game). – Peter Shor Mar 15 '11 at 1:12

There is no verb "sad" in English. It's an adjective. The closest you can get is "feel sad", which you can put in the past continuous:

I was feeling sad.

Similarly, you can write

I was feeling upset.

share|improve this answer

Cry and miss are two verbs; that is the reason you can say "I was crying" or "I was missing."
Upset is also verb, but it means "to make others unhappy;" if that is what you mean, then you can use the past progressive of upset like you do with other verbs.
Upset and sad are two adjectives, in sentences like "I am upset" or "I am sad." If you want to use the past progressive, the verb in those phrases is to be, whose present participle is being. I have never seen somebody using the past progressive in that way, though, when you can simply write those phrases with the simple past.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.