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Imperfect | Tense

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How do you use the Imperfect tense in Spanish?

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Imperfect Tense in Spanish video

ar, er, ir

The Spanish Imperfect Tense is used to describe past habitual actions or to talk about what someone was doing when they were interrupted by something else.

Regular Imperfect Forms

There are only two sets of endings for regular Imperfect verbs in Spanish, one for "-ar" verbs and one for both "-er" and "-ir" verbs.


Note: To conjugate a regular verb in the Imperfect Tense in Spanish, simply remove the infinitive ending (-ar, -er, or -ir) and add the imperfect ending that matches the subject.


Verbs ending in -ar

Subject-ar Endings

Yo (I)-aba

 (You)(Informal)-abas

Usted (You)(Formal)-aba

Él/Ella(He/She)-aba

Nosotros(as)(We)-ábamos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)-abais

Ustedes(You)(Formal)-aban

Ellos(as)(They)-aban

 

Subject-hablar-English translation

Yo (I)-Hablaba-I used to speak

 (You)(Informal)-Hablabas-You used to speak

Usted (You)(Formal)-Hablaba-You used to speak

Él/Ella(He/She)-Hablaba- He/She used to speak

Nosotros(as)(We)-Hablábamos- We used to speak

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)-Hablabais-You used to speak

Ustedes(You)(Formal)-Hablaban-You used to speak

Ellos(as)(They)-Hablaban-They used to speak

 

Verbs ending  in -er

Subject-er Endings

Yo (I)-ía

 (You)(Informal)-ías

Usted (You)(Formal)-ía

Él/Ella(He/She)-ía

Nosotros(as)(We)-íamos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)-íais

Ustedes(You)(Formal)-ían

Ellos(as)(They)-ían

 

Subject-comer-English translation

Yo (I)-Comía-I used to eat

 (You)(Informal)-Comías-You used to eat

Usted (You)(Formal)-Comía-You used to eat

Él/Ella(He/She)-Comía-He/She used to eat

Nosotros(as)(We)-Comíamos-We used to eat

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)-Comíais-You used to eat

Ustedes(You)(Formal)-Comían-You used to eat

Ellos(as)(They)-Comían-They used to eat

 

Verbs ending in -ir

Subject-ir Endings

Yo (I)-ía

 (You)(Informal)-ías

Usted (You)(Formal)-ía

Él/Ella(He/She)-ía

Nosotros(as)(We)-íamos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)-íais

Ustedes(You)(Formal)-ían

Ellos(as)(They)-ían

 

Subject-vivir-English translation

Yo (I)-Vivía-I used to live

 (You)(Informal)-Vivías-You used to live

Usted (You)(Formal)-Vivía-You used to live

Él/Ella(He/She)-Vivía-He/She used to live

Nosotros(as)(We)-Vivíamos-We used to live

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)-Vivíais-You used to live

Ustedes(You)(Formal)-Vivían-You used to live

Ellos(as)(They)-Vivían-They used to live

Examples. Uses of the Imperfect Tense

In general, the Imperfect is used to talk about past actions, conditions, or events that occurred habitually or repeatedly or that were in progress at a point in the past. It is also used to tell time, talk about dates, give a person's age, and describe characteristics, conditions, and feelings in the past. 

Habitual or Repeated Actions

Habitual or repeated actions are those that were done over and over in the past. These are often things a person used to or would do.
 

e.g.
Almorzábamos
 cada día. - We used to eat lunch together every day.
 
Todos los sábados las mujeres iban de compras.- Every Saturday the ladies would go shopping.

 

Actions that Were in Progress in the Past

It's quite common to see the Imperfect used to talk about something that was happening when something else occurred. It's also used for actions that continued in the past for an unspecified period of time. When talking about a past action in progress that was interrupted, the action in progress is in the Imperfect, while the interrupting action is in the Preterite

e.g. 

Iba a clase cuando sonó el teléfono. - I was going to class when the telephone rang.
 
Mi papá cocinaba cuando entré a casa. - My dad cooked when I went house.
 
A veces le dolían
 las manos y las piernas. - Sometimes her hands and feet ached.

 


Times and Dates

The Imperfect is used to talk about times and dates in the past.
 

e.g.
Eran las tres de la tarde.- It was three o'clock in the afternoon.
 
Era el 5 de mayo. - It was May 5th.

 


Age

The Imperfect is commonly used to talk about age in the past.
 

e.g.
La niña tenía 4 años. - The little girl was 4 years old.
 
Los perros tenían dos años cuando los adopté. - The dogs were two years old when I adopted them.

 

Descriptions of Characteristics, Conditions, and Feelings

The Imperfect is used to give descriptions in the past, especially those that set the scene in terms of the senses.
 

e.g.
Mi profesor era alto y tenía el pelo ondulado.- My professor was tall and had wavy hair.
   
El campo era bello.- The countryside was beautiful.
   
Hacía calor esa noche.- It was hot that night.
 
Me sentía feliz con mi trabajo nuevo.- I was happy with my new job.
   
Quería mudarme a otro país. - I wanted to move to another country.

 

How/What things were...

The Imperfect is used to describe how things were or what things were like.

e.g.

Era un señor muy alto - He was a very tall gentleman.

Era una señora muy rica. - She was a very rich lady

Las puertas estaban cerradas. - The doors were close.

La casa era grande - The house was big

 


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