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Learn Spanish: The Past Tense - El Imperfecto

Learn Spanish Grammar

Spanish Pronunciation
Spanish Gender and Articles
Spanish Subject Pronouns
Spanish Verb Ser
Spanish Plural Nouns and Adjectives
Calendar in Spanish
Spanish Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers
Spanish Prepositions
Telling Time in Spanish
Spanish Verb Hay
Spanish Verbs Present Tense

Spanish Verb Ir
Spanish Verb Tener

Spanish Verb Estar
vs. Estar

Spanish Possessive Adjectives
Spanish Possessive Pronouns
Spanish Stem-Changing Verbs
Spanish Prepositions Por vs. Para
Spanish Demonstratives
Spanish Direct Object Pronouns
Spanish Indirect Object Pronoun
Direct + Indirect Object Pronouns
Spanish Verb Gustar
Weather in Spanish
Spanish Reflexive Verbs (coming soon)
Spanish Verb Acabar
Spanish Verb Volver
Spanish Past Tense - Pretérito
Spanish Informal Commands
Spanish Plural Familiar Commands
Spanish Nosotros Commands (coming soon)

Spanish Past Tense - Imperfecto
Preterit vs. Imperfect
Spanish Past Participles
Spanish Present Perfect Tense
Spanish Past Perfect Tense
Spanish Formal Commands
Spanish Subjunctive Mood
Spanish Future Tense
Spanish Conditional Tense



The Imperfect tense


Learn Spanish: Conjugating Spanish Past Tense - Imperfect (Imperfecto)

This learn Spanish grammar lesson is about the other way of expressing the past tense - the imperfect (el imperfecto). This learn Spanish grammar lesson will review how to conjugate regular and irregular verbs in the Spanish imperfect and when to use it. As you learned while studying the preterit, in Spanish there are two simple past tenses: the preterit and the imperfect tense.

As you learned while studying the preterit, in Spanish there are two simple past tenses: the preterit and the imperfect tense.

The preterit is used to narrate or relate what happened at a specific point in time or specific occasion (yesterday, last night, etc). For example:

Ayer fuimos al concierto y regresamos tarde. Yesterday, we went to the concert and returned late.

The imperfect tense is used mainly to describe the past (weather, people, ongoing conditions, places and things) and also to indicate routine or habitual actions in the past (what you "used to do" in the past).

Nevaba y las chicas hacían muñecos de nieve. It was snowing and the girls were making snowmen.
De niña jugaba con mi hermano mientras mi madre dormía. As child I used to play with my brother while my mother was sleeping.

Conjugating Verbs in the Imperfect

1) Regular forms

-AR verbs
-ER / -IR verbs
Subject Pronoun Tomar Comer Vivir
Yo tomaba comía vivía
tomabas comías vivías
Usted/Él/Ella tomaba comía vivía
Nosotros/as tomabamos comíamos vivíamos
Vosotros tomabais comisteis vivisteis
Ustedes/Ellos/Ellas tomaban comían vivían

2) The Imperfect translates into four English forms:

Used to do something De niña vivía en Córdoba As a child I used to live in Cordoba.
Habitual action Una vez por mes, comía con ellos. Once a month I would eat with them.
Description of the past En 1982 viviamos en Florida In 1982 we were living in Florida.
Ongoing action in the past Tomaba desayuno cuando me llamaste. I was eating breakfast when you called me.

3) Irregular Verbs in the Imperfect tense

In Spanish there are only 3 irregular verbs in the Imperfect tense. They require memorization.

Ser, Ir and Ver

Subject Pronoun

Ser (to be)

Ir (to go)

Ver (to see)

Yo era iba veía
eras ibas veías
Usted/Él/Ella era iba veía
Nosotros/as eramos ibamos veíamos
Vosotros erais ibaís veías
Ustedes/Ellos/Ellas eran iban veían

Cuando (yo) era joven, (yo) iba a la playa todos los días.
When I was young, I used to go to the beach every day.

(Yo) veía la televisión cuando tú trabajabas.
I was watching television when you were working.