• Spanish grammar
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  • 1 Spanish alphabet [0/1]
  • 2 Spanish articles [0/6]
  • 3 Spanish nouns [0/8]
  • 4 Spanish adjectives [0/17]
  • 5 Spanish numbers [0/6]
  • 6 Spanish pronouns [0/32]
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  • 6.1 Spanish personal pronouns [0/15]
  • 6.2 Spanish reflexive pronouns [0/2]
  • 6.3 Spanish possessive pronouns [0/2]
  • 6.4 Spanish demonstrative pronouns [0/2]
  • 6.5 Spanish interrogative pronouns [0/3]
  • 6.6 Spanish relative pronouns [0/3]
  • 7 Adverbs in Spanish [0/18]
  • 8 Sentence structure and word order in Spanish [0/4]
  • 9 Spanish prepositions [0/2]
  • 10 Spanish tenses and verb conjugation [0/27]
  • 10.1 Present tense in Spanish (el presente) [0/3]
  • 10.2 Past tenses in Spanish (el pasado) [0/18]
  • 10.2.1 Pretérito perfecto simple (indefinido) in Spanish [0/3]
  • 10.2.2 Pretérito perfecto compuesto in Spanish [0/3]
  • 10.2.3 Difference between Pretérito Perfecto and Indefinido [0/3]
  • 10.2.4 Pretérito Imperfecto in Spanish [0/3]
  • 10.2.5 Difference between imperfecto and indefinido [0/3]
  • 10.2.6 Pretérito pluscuamperfecto in Spanish [0/3]
  • 10.3 Future tense in Spanish (el futuro) [0/6]
  • 11 Difference between "ser" and "estar" in Spanish [0/3]
  • 12 Spanish verbs [0/7]
  • 13 Gerund in Spanish (el gerundio) [0/3]
  • 14 Imperative in Spanish (imperativo) [0/6]
  • 15 Passive in Spanish (voz pasiva) [0/3]
  • 16 Negation in Spanish [0/2]
  • What is the pretérito imperfecto (imperfect tense) in Spanish?

    The imperfect tense (Spanish: el pretérito imperfecto or imperfecto) is in addition to the pretérito perfecto simple and pretérito perfecto compuesto, another tense to talk about the past. It is used in descriptions and to say what was happening or used to happen.

    Regular and irregular verb conjugations

    The conjugation of the imperfecto is much less complex than the other past tense forms.

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    Regular conjugation of the imperfecto

    The imperfect of regular verbs is formed by dropping the endings -ar, -er, -ir of the infinitive form and adding the following endings:

    • for verbs ending in -ar with -aba, -abas, -aba, -ábamos, -abais, -aban
    • for verbs ending in -er, with -ía, -ías, -ía, -íamos, -íais, -ían
    • for verbs ending in -ir, with -ía, -ías, -ía, -íamos, -íais, -ían
     

    -ar verbs conjugated

    -er verbs conjugated -ir verbs conjugated
    Pronouns Hablar (to speak) Comer (to eat) Vivir (to live)
    Yo hablaba comía vivía
    hablabas comías vivías
    Él / Ella hablaba comía vivía
    Nosotros/-as hablábamos comíamos vivíamos
    Vosotros/-as hablabais comíais vivíais
    Ellos/ellas/Ustedes hablaban comían vivían

     

    enlightenedAttention: Note, that –er and –ir verbs share the same endings and all forms have a written accent mark.

    Irregular conjugation of the imperfecto (ir, ver, ser)

    It is easy to remember that there are only three verbs with irregular conjugations in the imperfect: ir, ser and ver

    Pronouns Ir (to go)
    Yo iba
    ibas
    Él / Ella iba
    Nosotros/-as íbamos
    Vosotros/-as ibais
    Ellos/ellas/Ustedes iban

     

    Pronouns Ser (to be)
    Yo era
    eras
    Él / Ella era
    Nosotros/-as éramos
    Vosotros/-as erais
    Ellos/ellas/Ustedes eran

     

    Pronouns ver (to see)
    Yo veía
    veías
    Él / Ella veía
    Nosotros/-as veíamos
    Vosotros/-as veíais
    Ellos/ellas/Ustedes veían

    When to use the pretérito imperfecto in Spanish?

    Ongoing actions

    To describe continuing, ongoing actions in the past.

    • Miriam tenia muchos amigos. (Miriam had a lot of friends.)
    • No teníamos mucho dinero. (We didn’t have much money.)

    Regular actions in the past

    To say what used to happen or what you used to do regularly in the past.

    • Cuando vivía en Paris iba al teatro con frecuencia. (When I was living in Paris, I usedto go to the theatre frequently.)
    • Llamaba a su madre cada día. (She used to call her mum every day.)

    Descriptions of states

    To describe people or states of indefinite duration in the past.

    • Era un politico corrupto. (He was a corrupt polititian.)
    • Hacía sol. (It was sunny.)

    Simultaneous actions in the past

    To describe simultaneous actions in the past.

    • El padre cocinaba mientras los niños jugaban.  (The father was cooking while the children were playing.)
    • María escuchaba música mientras trabajaba. (Maria listened to music while working.)

    Unexpected events

    To describe what was happening or what the situation was when something else took place.

    • Me caí cuando cruzaba la calle. (I felt over when I was crossing the road.)
    • Estaba en casa cuando hubo un corte de electricidad. (I was at home when there was an electricity cut.)

    Marker words of the pretérito imperfecto.

    These expressions indicated the use of imperfecto. Most of the words highlight that the action takes place regularly or is a habit.

    Spanish English
    antes before
    mientras while
    de joven / de niño when I was young / a child
    normalmente usually
    siempre always
    nunca never
    a menudo often
    algunas veces sometimes
    casi nunca hardly ever
    de vez en cuando from time to time
    todos los días/años every day/year

    Examples sentences for the imperfecto in Spanish

    • Antes comía carne. (Before, I used to eat meat)
    • Normalmente volvías de trabajar a las 18:00. (Usually you came back from work at 18:00)
    • Siempre veíamos la televisión después de cenar.  (We always watched TV after dinner)

    Example text

    “Garrapata” era un hombre feroz y barrigudo. Tenía una pata de palo y un garfio de acero en vez de mano. Era el terror de Londres. Tenía la nariz gorda y colorada como una berenjena.. Le faltaba media oreja y llevaba un parche negro para taparse un ojo de cristal. Por lo demás, no era demasiado feo.

    Extraído de: El Pirata Garrapata. Juan Muñoz Martín

    Translation

    "Garrapata" was a ferocious and pot-bellied man. He had a wooden leg and a steel hook instead of a hand. It was the terror of London. His nose was big and red like an eggplant. He had half an ear and wore a black patch to cover his glass eye. Apart from that, it was not too ugly.

    From El Pirata Garrapata. Juan Muñoz Martín