Because Practice is What You Need!
Spanish Imperfect Tense

Spanish Imperfect Tense - Conjugations and Uses

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.

NOTICE: some of the links in this posts are affiliate links. If you purchase something, I will receive a commission. However, your purchase price will remain unchanged.

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.).

-AR VERBS

The endings of the imperfect tense for all –ar verbs have -aba in all forms.

SUBJ. PRON.ENDINGS
Yo-aba
-abas
Él/ella/Ud.-aba
Nosotros/as-ábamos
Vosotros/as-abais
Ellos/as/Uds.-aban
EXAMPLES
SUBJ. PRON.CANTAR
YoCantaba
Cantabas
Él/ella/Ud.Cantaba
Nosotros/asCantábamos
Vosotros/asCantabais
Ellos/as/Uds.Cantaban

-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
Yo-ía
-ías
Él/ella/Ud.-ía
Nosotros/as-íamos
Vosotros/as-íais
Ellos/as/Uds.-ían
EXAMPLES
SUBJ. PRON.COMER
YoComía

Comías
Él/ella/Ud.Comía
Nosotros/asComíamos
Vosotros/asComíais
Ellos/as/Uds.Comían
SUBJ. PRON.VIVIR
YoVivía
Vivías
Él/ella/Ud.Vivía
Nosotros/asVivíamos
Vosotros/asVivíais
Ellos/as/Uds.Vivían

IRREGULAR VERBS

There are three irregular verbs: ser, ir and ver.

These are verbs whose conjugations you have to memorize. 😕

Ser
SUBJ. PRON.CONJ.
YoEra
Eras
Él/ella/Ud.Era
Nosotros/asÉramos
Vosotros/asErais
Ellos/as/Uds.Eran
Ir
SUBJ. PRON.CONJ.
YoIba
Ibas
Él/ella/Ud.Iba
Nosotros/asÍbamos
Vosotros/asIbais
Ellos/as/Uds.Iban
Ver
SUBJ. PRON.CONJ.
YoVeía
Veías
Él/ella/Ud.Veía
Nosotros/asVeíamos
Vosotros/asVeíais
Ellos/as/Uds.Veían

WHERE TO PRACTICE HOW TO FORM THE IMPERFECT TENSE

Conjugations
Written Practice
Quizzes
Gap Fill Exercises

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.

ONGOING ACTIONS

EXAMPLES
  • 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

EXAMPLES
  • 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

EXAMPLES
  • Yo viajaba a menudo. → I used to travel.
  • Cuando era joven, leía mucho. → When he was young, he used to read a lot.

HABITUAL ACTIONS

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.

DESCRIPTION AND EXPRESSING BACKGROUND

EXAMPLES
  • 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)

EXAMPLES
  • 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

EXAMPLES
  • 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.

INDIRECT DISCOURSE

In other words, to report what someone said in the past.

EXAMPLES
  • 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.

SPANISHENGLISH
A menudo
Often
A veces
Sometimes
Cada año
Each/every year
Cada día
Each/every day
Con frecuencia
Frecuentemente
Frequently
Cada semana
Each/every week
De vez en cuando
From time to time
En aquella época
At that time
During that time
Generalmente
Generally
Muchas veces
Many times
Nunca
Never
Siempre
Always
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

Oral Practice
Written Practice
Gap Fill Exercises

Final Thoughts

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?

Hola and hi, I am Inés and I am the author of all the posts in the ConvoSpanish blog. My goal is to offer free content for people to practice their Spanish. Creating and maintaining the blog takes a lot of my free time however, due to my love of sharing Spanish with you, I will keep adding and updating the content in the blog. If you like the content of this post and believe that it helps you, please consider donating. I need coffee to keep me going while creating the posts. Aren´t they worth at least a cup of coffee? 😛 Any amount is appreciated. Donations will be used to support the free blog.


SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *