Spanish Language Blog

Spanish Lesson Intermediate 20 Spanish verb tense “El Pretérito Imperfecto de Subjuntivo” Posted by on Aug 10, 2011 in Spanish Grammar, Spanish Vocabulary, Videos

¡Hola a todos!

Today we are going to see a new Spanish verb tense:“El Pretérito Imperfecto de Subjuntivo”. We will start by analysing its form and then afterwards we will see in which situations the “Pretérito Imperfecto de Subjuntivo” is used.

-AR verbs:

• (Yo) hablara/hablase: I spoke
• (Tú) hablaras/hablases: You spoke (friendly)
• (Usted) hablara/hablase: You spoke (formal)
• (Él/ella) hablara/hablase: He/She spoke
• (Nosotros/as) habláramos/hablásemos: We spoke
• (Vosotros/as) hablarais/hablaseis: You spoke (group/friendly)
• (Ustedes) hablaran/hablasen: You spoke (group/formal)
• (Ellos/as) hablaran/hablasen: They spoke

-ER/-IR verbs:

• (Yo) comiera/comiese: I ate
• (Tú) comieras/comieses: You ate (friendly)
• (Usted) comiera/comiese: You ate (formal)
• (Él/ella) comiera/comiese: He/She ate
• (Nosotros/as) comiéramos/comiésemos: We ate
• (Vosotros/as) comierais/comieseis: You ate (group/friendly)
• (Ustedes) comieran/comiesen: You ate (group/formal)
• (Ellos/as) comieran/comiesen: They ate

Now, let´s see the irregular Spanish verbs. I will tell you the first person of each verb and this will show you the verb’s irregular form. To make the verb endings for the other persons you just have to follow the endings of the regular verbs.

Irregular Verbs (1st person):

• Poner (to put): pusiera/pusiese
• Dormir (to sleep): durmiera/durmiese
• Conducir (to drive): condujera/condujese
• Preferir (to prefer): prefiriera/prefiriese
• Pedir (to ask for): pidiera/pidiese
• Morir (to die): muriera/muriese
• Querer (to want): quisiera/quisiese
• Hacer (to do): hiciera/hiciese
• Saber (to know): supiera/supiese
• Tener (to have): tuviera/tuviese
• Oir (to hear): oyera/oyese
• Huir (to escape): escapara/escapase
• Construir (to build): construyera/construyese
• Caber (to fit): cupiera/cupiese
• Ser/Ir (to be/to go): fuera/fuese
• Estar (to be): estuviera/estuviese

Let´s see now the different uses of the Spanish “Pretérito Imperfecto de Subjuntivo”. You use the “Pretérito Imperfecto de Subjuntivo” in the same way as the “Presente de subjuntivo” except that you use the “Pretérito imperfecto de subjuntivo” when the action is in the past rather than in the present.

Let´s see some examples comparing the two tenses:


• Quizás venga mañana: Maybe he will come tomorrow
• Quizás viniera/viniese ayer: Maybe he came yesterday


• No pienso que Antonio sea tan alto: I don´t think that Antonio is so tall
• No pensaba que Antonio fuera/fuese tan alto: I didn´t think that Antonio was so tall

Relative clauses:

• Quiero comprar una casa que tenga una piscina: I want to buy a house that has a swimming pool
• Quería comprar una casa que tuviera/tuviese una piscina: I wanted to buy a house that had a swimming pool

Temporary sentences:

• Me ha dicho que me llamará cuando llegue a Roma: He has told me that he will call me when he arrives in Rome
• Me dijo que me llamaría cuando llegara/llegase a Roma: He told me that he would call me when he arrived in Rome

Bueno, pues esto es todo por hoy. This is a very important lesson to try to digest as it highlights two key Spanish grammar tenses and as ever I suggest that you get practicing everything we have learned as soon as possible and as often as possible. Try making some sentences using both “Presente de Subjuntivo” and “Pretérito Imperfecto de Subjuntivo” so that you can compare the two. As you write more and more sentences you will start to get a better feel for how and when to use the two tenses.

¡Que paséis una buena semana y hasta pronto!

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About the Author: Laura & Adam

Laura & Adam have been blogging and creating online Spanish courses for Transparent Language since 2010. Laura is from Bilbao in northern Spain and Adam is from Devon in the south of England. They lived together in Spain for over 10 years, where their 2 daughters were born, and now they live in Scotland. Both Laura & Adam qualified as foreign language teachers in 2004 and since have been teaching Spanish in Spain, the UK, and online.


  1. Mike:

    Your blog is very informative thanks. I am not clear on why you have the 2 forms of the verb in Spanish though as my level is not advanced enough yet. Is that European vs. Latin America?

    • David Carmona:

      @Mike Which two forms are you referring to?

  2. Sam:

    I would add that a straightforward way to form the imperfect subjunctive ( which covers BOTH the preterite and imperfect tenses within the subjunctive mood ) is:

    1. Write the 3rd person plural of the “normal” preterite.

    2. Delete the -ron part.

    3. Add -ra, -ras, -ra, -‘ramos, -ran.

    Example- let’s use “comer”-

    1. 3rd person plural preterite = comieron.

    2. Delete the -ron: comieron –> comie- .

    3. Add the endings, giving:
    comiera, comieras, comiera, comiéramos, comieran.

    This works for all verbs as any irregularity in the preterite indicative is carried over to the subjunctive, as mentioned in the Spanish Lesson e.g:

    Tener–> tuvieron –> tuvie- –> tuviera, tuvieras, tuviera, tuviéramos, tuvieran.

    Note the use of the accent/stress-mark on the final vowel of the nosotros form’s “stem”: tuviÉramos. Another example would be: comiÉramos.

    Let’s just do a quick practice with an -ar verb, just to convince you all that it works:

    Lavar–> lavaron –> lava- –>
    Lavara, lavaras, lavara, laváramos, lavaran.

    Although this looks superficially similar to the future tense, a closer look reveals that they are quite distinct eg using “hablar”:

    Imperfect subjunctive: hablara, hablaras, hablara, habláramos, hablaran.

    Hablaré, hablarás, hablará, hablaremos, hablarán.

    ( Watch those accents/ stress patterns help us out. )

    Ok, just a few points to finish off:

    1. Instead of -ra, -ras, -ra, -‘ramos, -ran

    we can also use -se, -ses, -se, -‘semos, -sen.

    This would give, for example, tuviese, tuvieses, tuviese, tuviésemos, tuviesen.

    *No difference in meaning*- just an equally valid alternative form. Why? Answers on a postcard, ladies and gents.

    2. This explanation has been based on Latin American Spanish, hence the vosotros/as form has been omitted.

    3. Simple * Spanish, a useful resource. Remember, learning a language is a continuous process, a curve. Use all the tools at your disposal, and use them in the way(s) that work for you. There is no “one size fits all” in language learning. One can say, however, that it is advantageous to have a balanced approach combining both grammar and conversation. Too much of with too little of the other will be less effective in the long run.

    Espero que les interesara / interesase, y también que les hiciera/hiciese claro el tema.

    Muchas gracias también a Spanish Lesson por su página bien útil 🙂

  3. Anna:

    Thank you so much for this explanation. This helped to understand when in which situation to use the Preterito indefinido de Subjuntiv. Now I’m gonna look for the same article where you explain how and when to use Preterito Perfecto de Subjuntiv