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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.

Example

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.

Example

For the verbs ending in -ar:

yo (I) -aba
tú (You) -abas
el, ella, usted (he, she, you formal) -aba
nosotros, nosotras (we) -ábamos
vosotros, vosotras (you all) -abais
ellos, ellas, (they) ustedes (you all formal) -aban

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.

hablar habl--
yo (I) hablaba (I spoke)
tú (you) hablabas (you spoke)
el, ella, usted (he, she, you formal) hablaba (he, she spoke)
nosotros, nosotras (we) hablábamos (we spoke)
vosotros, vosotras (you all) hablabais (you all spoke)
ellos, ellas, (they) ustedes (you all formal) hablaban (they spoke)

For the verbs ending in -er:

yo (I) -ía
tú (You) -ías
el, ella, usted (he, she, you formal) -ía
nosotros, nosotras (we) -íamos
vosotros, vosotras (you all) -íais
ellos, ellas, (they) ustedes (you all formal) -ían

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.

correr corr--
yo (I) corría (I ran)
tú (you) corrías (you ran)
el, ella, usted (he, she, you formal) corría (he, she ran)
nosotros, nosotras (we) corríamos (we ran)
vosotros, vosotras (you all) corríais (you all ran)
ellos, ellas, (they) ustedes (you all formal) corrían (they ran)

For the verbs ending in -ir:

yo (I) -ía
tú (You) -ías
el, ella, usted (he, she, you formal) -ía
nosotros, nosotras (we) -íamos
vosotros, vosotras (you all) -íais
ellos, ellas, (they) ustedes (you all formal) -ían

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.

añadir añad--
yo (I) añadía (I added)
tú (you) añadías (you added)
el, ella, usted (he, she, you formal) añadía (he, she added)
nosotros, nosotras (we) añadíamos (we added)
vosotros, vosotras (you all) añadíais (you all added)
ellos, ellas, (they) ustedes (you all formal) añadían (they added)

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:

Tener To have
yo tenía I had

tenías

you had
el tenía he had
nosotros teníamos we had
vosotros teníais you all had
ellos tenían they had
SOME GENERAL USES

We use the "Pretérito Imperfecto" (Imperfect preterite) to talk about past experiences without specifying when they began or ended.

Example

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.".

Example

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.

Example

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.

Example

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.