Do you know how to use and form the Spanish imperfect tense? Have you ever had a chance to use it? Finally, do you have an idea why we use it?
Worry not, because, by the end of this article, we will answer these and all other concerns you may have about the imperfect tense.
Spanish has irregular verbs, as you probably know, so other than conjugations and all the uses of the Spanish imperfect tense, we will also talk about these verbs and how to conjugate them.
Additionally, we prepared plenty of examples with audio to help you better understand the concept of Spanish imperfect tense and practice your listening skills.
Spanish Imperfect Tense
Just like preterite, we use the Spanish imperfect tense to talk about the past.
Unlike preterite, we use the imperfect tense in Spanish to talk about non-completed actions. So, what’s the difference between these two tenses? Our article preterite vs imperfect will help you distinguish them.
The most common translations of the imperfect sentences in Spanish would be: used to, was/were…-ing, and would + infinitive verb, and simple past conjugations such as bought, went, drove, walked, etc.
Let’s check some uses of imperfect tense – Spanish examples followed by the English translation:
Durante verano, hacía tanto calor que no se podía respirar.
During summer, it was so hot that you couldn’t breathe.
Cuando era niño, mis padres me llevaban a la piscina todos los domingos.
When I was a kid, my parents used to take me to a swimming pool every Sunday.
How to Form the Spanish Imperfect Tense
What you need to know to conjugate the regular verbs in imperfect sentences in Spanish are the endings.
The Spanish language has three types of conjugations, based on how the verbs end: -ar, -er, -ir.
Subject pronoun (SUBJ. PRON.) and conjugations (CONJ.).
The ending of the imperfect past tense in Spanish for all the verbs of the first conjugation (-ar) is –aba in all forms.
-ER AND -IR VERBS
The ending of the imperfect tense in Spanish for all the verbs ending in -er and -ir is -ía in all forms.
|SUBJ. PRON.||-ER/-IR VERBS|
There are three irregular verbs in the imperfect tense in Spanish: ser, ir, and ver.
These are the verbs whose conjugations you have to memorize. We are not joking. But look on the bright side: it’s only three verbs.
How to Form Imperfect Tense Spanish – Practice
- Spanish Demystified – Written Practice 1 from chapter 14 (page 267).
Gap Fill Exercises
- The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice – Exercise A from chapter 5 (pages 59-61).
- The imperfect tense in Spanish (regular verbs) 1 and 2 -Beginner/Intermediate
- The imperfect tense in Spanish (irregular verbs) 1 and 2 – High Intermediate
- Ser / Estar – imperfect
When to Use Spanish Imperfect Tense
There are several cases where you can apply the imperfect tense in Spanish. Sometimes, people who start learning Spanish as their second language can often have issues understanding when to use Spanish imperfect tense.
Besides the explanation of what situations you should use the Spanish imperfect past tense in, we will give a few examples.
Before we get on to it, the best way to know whether or not to use the imperfect tense in Spanish in a sentence is to think about the action you want to describe in the past. Is it really over? Was it a repeated action in the past?
These are some of the questions you can make to clarify whether you need to use the imperfect tense.
The Spanish imperfect tense describes past actions that are seen as an ongoing process.
- Las chicas hablaban en español. → The girls were speaking in Spanish.
- Estudiaba para el examen. → I was studying for the test.
Indefinite Starting or Ending Point
When there is no definite starting or ending point in the past, we use the Spanish imperfect tense.
- Tenía novio. → I had a boyfriend.
- Cuando era joven, iba a la montaña. → When I was young, I would go to the mountain.
Actions That Took Place Over an Indefinite Period
Imperfect sentences in Spanish can also describe actions in the past that lasted for an indefinite period.
- Yo viajaba a menudo. → I used to travel.
- Cuando era joven, leía mucho. → When he was young, he used to read a lot.
To describe some repeated actions that used to happen in the past, use the imperfect tense. Spanish examples:
- Nadábamos todas las mañanas. → We used to swim every morning.
- Iba al cine cada semana. → I used to go to the theater every week.
We also use the Spanish imperfect tense to describe things, people, and backgrounds.
- Hacía viento y llovía. → It was windy and it rained.
- Mi jefe era alto y rubio. → My boss was tall and blonde.
Expressing Emotions, Thoughts, and Certain Mental Activities
If we want to describe how we felt about something in the past, we use, you guessed, the Spanish imperfect tense!
- Quería viajar. → I wanted to travel.
- No pensábamos que iban a cambiar de oficina. → We didn’t think they were going to change the office.
Times, Dates, and Age
Another use of the Spanish imperfect past tense is to talk about time, dates, and age in the past.
- Eran las cuatro de la tarde. → It was 4pm.
- Era el tres de junio. → It was June 3rd.
- El chico tenía veinte años. → The boy was twenty years old.
You must’ve heard about the indirect speech before. Well, to report what someone said in the past, we will use the imperfect tense. Spanish examples follow:
- Me dijo que iba al concierto. → She told me she was going to the concert.
- El director informó que pensaba despedir a los trabajadores. → The director stated that he was thinking about firing the workers.
Time Markers in Imperfect Sentences in Spanish
The following adverbs and adverbial phrases can help you in situations when you are not sure whether to use the Spanish imperfect tense.
|Cada año||Each/every year|
|Cada día||Each/every day|
|Cada semana||Each/every week|
|De vez en cuando||From time to time|
|En aquella época||At that time|
During that time
|Muchas veces||Many times|
|Todo el tiempo||All the time|
The whole time
|Todos los días||Every day|
|Todas las semanas||Every week|
|Todos los lunes||Every Monday|
|Un día si, un día no||Every other day|
|Varias veces||Several times|
Where to Practice Spanish Imperfect Tense
- Spanish Demystified – Oral Practice 1 from Chapter 14 (page 270).
- The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice – Exercises B, C and D from chapter 5 (pages 59-61).
Gap Fill Exercises
- Spanish Demystified – Written Practice 2 from Chapter 14 (page 270).
- Pretérito imperfecto 1
- B1: Imperfecto
- Imperfect: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
- Fable : imperfect / simple past
- Pretérito imperfecto
- Simple past / Imperfect
- Use of Imperfect: quizzes
Grammatically speaking, the Spanish imperfect tense is not as difficult as some other tenses. Look, you only have three irregular verbs. How cool is that, right? And the conjugations are pretty simple, don’t you agree?
Hopefully, we managed to clarify some doubts you may have had regarding the imperfect tense in Spanish.
But our honest suggestion is to try and form the imperfect sentences in Spanish by yourself using the time markers from this article or just try telling a story that happened to you or to someone in the past.
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