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LEARN SPANISH "PRETÉRITO IMPERFECTO" (IMPERFECT PRETERITE) INDICATIVE MOOD
Before we study the "Pretérito Imperfecto" (Imperfect preterite) we need to learn some basic concepts about Spanish verbs. Spanish verbs are always either regular or irregular as it happens with English verbs. All Spanish verbs end either in "-ar", "-er" or "-ir ". These are the three Spanish conjugations.
Hablar (to speak) Correr (to run) Añadir (to add)
To form the "Pretérito Imperfecto" (Imperfect preterite) of the indicative mood,
we need to take the verb as we find it in the dictionary. Then we will remove the
last two letters and we will add the appropriate ending for each person.
For the verbs ending in -ar:
Example: We take the verb "hablar" (to speak). We remove the "-ar": We are left with habl- (the stem) and then we add the personal endings.
For the verbs ending in -er:
Example: We take the verb "correr" (to run). We remove the "-er": We are left with corr- (the stem) and then we add the personal endings.
For the verbs ending in -ir:
Example: We take the verb "añadir" (to add). We remove the "-ir": We are left with añad- (the stem) and then we add the personal endings.
The differences between the persons "tú" (you), "vosotros" (you all), "usted" (you formal) and "ustedes" (you all formal) are explained in Spanish Personal Pronouns.
Some of the irregular verbs will be conjugated exactly in the same form, adding the same sets of endings; the only difference is that they will have some spelling changes in the stem of the verb. ***Remember*** Spanish Irregular verbs can be highly irregular and the general rule is "The rules do not apply".
Example: We take the irregular verb "tener" (to have). We remove the "-er" and we are left with the stem "ten-". Then we add the personal endings:
SOME GENERAL USES
We use the "Pretérito Imperfecto" (Imperfect preterite) to talk about past experiences
without specifying when they began or ended.
Ellos hacían mucho deporte.
They did a lot of sports
Ayer hacía mucho calor.
Yesterday it was very hot
Antes vivían en Madrid.
They lived in Madrid before
The "Pretérito Imperfecto" (Imperfect preterite) is also used to express actions
that were frequent or repeated in the past. We normally translate this use of the
"Pretérito Imperfecto" (Imperfect preterite) into English for "used to.".
Cuando éramos niños jugábamos en la calle.
When we were children we used to play in the street
Todos los domingos íbamos al campo.
Every Sunday we used to go to the countryside
Siempre me tomaba un vaso de leche antes de dormir.
I always used to have a glass of milk before going to sleep
The "Pretérito Imperfecto" (Imperfect preterite) is the tense most commonly used
in narrations of stories to express a common action in the past.
Mary se pasaba horas leyendo.
Mary spent (used to spend) hours reading
Los niños hablaban y reían al anochecer.
The children talked and laughed (used to talk and laugh) at dusk
With the "Pretérito Imperfecto" (Imperfect preterite) it is frequent to find adverbs
of time and time expressions such: siempre (always), normalmente (usually), a menudo
(often), a veces (sometimes), casi nunca (hardly ever), nunca (never), todos los
días (every day), dos veces por semana (twice a week), etc. to express the frequency
of the past action.
Ella siempre estudiaba inglés por las tardes.
She always studied English in the evenings
Casi nunca íbamos a esquiar.
We hardly ever went skiing
Ellos nunca iban a la playa.
They never used to go to the beach
Escuchábamos la radio todos los días.
We listened to the radio every day