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Beginner Spanish Lesson 40 The other Past Simple in Spanish – El Pretérito Imperfecto Posted by on Sep 25, 2012 in Basic, Learning, Pronunciation, Spanish Grammar, Spanish Vocabulary, Videos

In Spanish there are two grammar tenses which are equivalent to the English Past Simple tense. In the previous beginner Spanish lesson we looked at one of the Spanish Past Simples – El Pretérito Indefinido – and today we are going to see El Pretérito Imperfecto.

El Pretérito Imperfecto is used differently to El Pretérito Indefinido and its verbs are conjugated in different ways, but both tenses are used to describe actions in the past in a similar way to the English Past Simple.

First, let’s look at how to conjugate regular Spanish verb endings according to whether the verb ends in -ar, -er or –ir with El Pretérito Imperfecto.

-AR:

Hablar: To speak:

• (Yo) hablaba: I spoke/I used to speak/I was speaking
• (Tú) hablabas: You spoke/you used to speak/you were speaking (friendly)
• (Usted) hablaba: You spoke/you used to speak/you were speaking (formal)
• (Él/ella) hablaba: He/She spoke/he/she used to speak/he/she was speaking
• (Nosotros/as) hablábamos: We spoke/we used to speak/we were speaking
• (Vosotros/as) hablabais: You spoke/you used to speak/you were speaking (group/friendly)
• (Ustedes) hablaban: You spoke/you used to speak/you were speaking (group/formal)
• (Ellos/as) hablaban: They spoke/they used to speak/they were speaking

-ER/-IR:

Comer: To eat:

• (Yo) comía: I ate/I used to eat/I was eating
• (Tú) comías: You ate/you used to eat/you were eating (friendly)
• (Usted) comía: You ate/you used to eat/you were eating (formal)
• (Él/ella) comía: He/She ate/he/she used to eat/he/she was eating
• (Nosotros/as) comíamos: We ate/we used to eat/we were eating
• (Vosotros/as) comíais: You ate/you used to eat/you were eating (group/friendly)
• (Ustedes) comían: You ate/you used to eat/you were eating (group/formal)
• (Ellos/as) comían: They ate/they used to eat/they were eating

Next, let’s look at some important irregular verbs connected with the Spanish Pretérito Imperfecto:
(these are verbs which don’t follow the rules I have just discussed on how to conjugate regular verbs)

Ser: to be:

• (Yo) era: I was/I used to be/I was being
• (Tú) eras: You were/you used to be/you were being (friendly)
• (Usted) era: You were/you used to be/you were being (formal)
• (Él/ella) era: He/She was/he/she used to be/he/she was being
• (Nosotros/as) éramos: We were/we used to be/we were being
• (Vosotros/as) erais: You were/you used to be/you were being (group/friendly)
• (Ustedes) eran: You were/you used to be/you were being (group/formal)
• (Ellos/as) eran: They were/they used to be/they were being

Ir: to go:

• (Yo) iba: I went/I used to go/I was going
• (Tú) ibas: You went/you used to go/you were going (friendly)
• (Usted) iba: You went/you used to go/you were going (formal)
• (Él/ella) iba: He/She went/he/she used to go/he/she was going
• (Nosotros/as) ibamos: We went/we used to go/we were going
• (Vosotros/as) ibais: You went/you used to go/you were going (group/friendly)
• (Ustedes) iban: You went/you used to go/you were going (group/formal)
• (Ellos/as) iban: They went/they used to go/they were going

Now, we will analyse the different uses of the Spanish Pretérito Imperfecto so that you are clear on when exactly to use it:

• To express habitual actions:

Cuando yo era pequeño, jugaba con mis amigos: When I was a child, I used to play with my friends

• To make descriptions in the past:

Mi abuelo era un hombre fuerte: My grandfather was a strong man

• To describe an action happening in the past:

Cuando comíamos, la luz se apagó: When we were eating, the light went off

• To express two simultaneous actions in the past:

Siempre que venía a vernos, traía un regalo: Every time he came to see us, he brought a present

Next, we will see some typical phrases and key words that are used with El Pretérito Imperfecto:

• Generalmente: Generally
• A veces: Sometimes
• Casi siempre: Nearly always
• Normalmente: Usually
• Muchas veces: Many times
• Nunca: Never
• Antes: Before
• Siempre: Always
• Casi nunca: Hardly ever
• Todos los días: Every day
• Todas las semanas: Every week
• Todas las mañanas: Every morning
• Todas las tardes: Every afternoon
• Todas las noches: Every evening/Every night

Finally, let’s take a look at the Spanish verb Soler (“Used to”) that is commonly used with El Pretérito Imperfecto:

Soler: Used to

• (Yo) solía: I used to
• (Tú) solías: You used to (friendly)
• (Usted) solía: You used to (formal)
• (Él/ella) solía: He/She used to
• (Nosotros/as) solíamos: We used to
• (Vosotros/as) solíais: You used to (group/friendly)
• (Ustedes) solían: You used to (group/formal)
• (Ellos/as) solían: They used to

• Yo solía jugar al baloncesto los domingos: I used to play basketball on Sundays
• ¿Solías comer en casa de tu abuela?: Did you use to eat at your grandmother´s house?

So that’s all for today about the Spanish grammar tense El Pretérito Imperfecto. In future videos we will be looking at the differences between El Pretérito Imperfecto and El Pretérito Indefinido so that you are 100% clear on when to use one or the other.

The Spanish Past Simple is more complex than the English Past Simple. In English you have lots of irregular verbs to contend with, but there is only one version of the Past Simple and most of the verbs are conjugated simply with the addition of –ed. Try not to get too frustrated with learning El Pretérito Indefinido and El Pretérito Imperfecto. Take your time, be patient and practice as much as you can.

In the first instance I recommend going back and reviewing my previous Spanish lesson on El Pretérito Indefinido.

Have a great week and see you next time with more Spanish!

¡Hasta luego!

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About the Author: Laura

I am from Bilbao in northern Spain. I qualified as a Spanish Language Teacher in 2004. I have taught Spanish in England and Spain and now really enjoy teaching the Spanish Language via my website The Spanish Blog to students from all around the world. I love my job and the intricacies of the Spanish Language. My main personal interests are music, reading and cooking. I studied music for twelve years in Bilbao and I play the piano. I also enjoy singing and I try my best to sing more in English now. I hope very much that you enjoy my posts and welcome any comments.