You may have already noticed that the other common past tense in Spanish – the imperfect – is almost inseparable with the preterite. The imperfect is used for indefinite past actions, whereas the preterite is used for completed actions. This video will walk through a few of the uses and rules for which tense to use:
|Completed actions – had definite beginning and/or end
Things that happened
|Actions that are ongoing or not finished
Verbs that set the scene
Describe the surroundings
“Used to ____”
Give context to a situation.
To make these rules come alive a bit, let’s analyze a story in English, and try to identify whether each past tense expression would use the preterite or imperfect. First, we’ll do it together, then you’ll try to do it yourself.
Now that you’ve had a glimpse at the rules for these two tenses, the best way to understand and improve your use of them is to learn from examples and try to identify why the native speaker used the tense he or she used. Before we get to that point, let’s go through the rules for conjugating the imperfect tense.
Singular –aba, abas, aba
Plural – ábamos, abais, aban
Singular – ía, ías, ía
Plural- íamos, íais, ían
Did you notice that yo and el/ella/usted have the same conjugations? This is true of every verb, even irregulars! Since they overlap, most of the time they’ll use the subject pronoun, unless it has previously been introduced in an earlier sentence.
Estar is much more commonly used in the imperfect than in the preterite.
Conjugation of hablar, estar, escribir, comer.
Just like we did with the preterite, in these next videos we’ll go through the conjugation of the verbs ser, and ir.
Singular –era, eras, era
Plural – éramos, erais, eran
Singular –iba, ibas, iba
Plural – íbamos, ibais, iban