With this post you will learn about the conjugations and all the uses of the Spanish imperfect tense.
Additionally, there are plenty of examples with audios to help you better understand the concepts and to practice your listening skills.
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The Spanish Imperfect Tense
As the same with preterite, the Spanish imperfect tense is used to talk about the past.
Unlike the preterite, we use the imperfect to talk about non completed actions. Click here to learn more about preterite vs imperfect.
The most common translations in English are: “used to,” “was/were…-ing,” and “would + infinitive verb“, and simple past conjugations such as “bought, went, drove, walked, etc.”,
How to Form the Imperfect Tense
The only thing you need to know in order to conjugate the regular verbs are the endings.
The following abbreviations are used: Subject pronoun (SUBJ. PRON.) and conjugations (CONJ.).
The endings of the imperfect tense for all –ar verbs have -aba in all forms.
-ER AND -IR VERBS
The endings of the imperfect form for all -er and -ir verbs have -ía in all forms.
|SUBJ. PRON.||-ER/-IR VERBS|
There are three irregular verbs: ser, ir and ver.
These are verbs whose conjugations you have to memorize. 😕
WHERE TO PRACTICE HOW TO FORM THE IMPERFECT TENSE
- 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
Uses of the Imperfect Tense
The Spanish imperfect tense describes past actions that are seen as an ongoing process. However, there are other specific uses of the imperfect.
- Las chicas hablaban en español. → The girls used to speak in Spanish.
- Estudiaba para el examen. → I was studying for the test.
NOT DEFINITE STARTING OR ENDING POINT
- 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 TAKE PLACE OVER A INDEFINITE PERIOD OF TIME
- Yo viajaba a menudo. → I used to travel.
- Cuando era joven, leía mucho. → When he was young, he used to read a lot.
- Nadábamos todas las mañanas. → We used to swim every morning.
- Iba al cine cada semana. → I used to go to the theater every week.
DESCRIPTION AND EXPRESSING BACKGROUND
- Hacía viento y llovía. → It was windy and it rained.
- Mi jefe era alto y rubio. → My boss was tall and blonde.
CERTAIN MENTAL ACTIVITIES (FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS)
- 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
- 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.
In other words, to report what someone said in the past.
- 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.
Adverbs of Time and Adverbial Phrases
Below is a list with the adverbs of time and adverbial phrases that trigger the imperfect.
|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 Everything
- 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
Hopefully, you are now able to understand the use the Spanish imperfect tense better.
I advise you to practice with the examples here and try to make some others on your own. Also, do as many grammar exercises as you can to get used to this verb tense. In addition, practice the language in general until you get to the point that you know what tense to use just because it sounds “well”.
Additionally, I can help you practice with this tense by using it while having a conversation during our online Spanish conversation classes.
Finally, we can practice in the comment section below by answering the following questions:
- ¿Qué deportes practicabas de pequeño?
- ¿Hacía frío cuando saliste de casa ayer?
- ¿Querías viajar de joven?
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