Home Language Learning Preterite vs Imperfect in Spanish: The Final Information To Grasp Each

Preterite vs Imperfect in Spanish: The Final Information To Grasp Each

Preterite vs Imperfect in Spanish: The Final Information To Grasp Each


preterite vs imperfect spanish blog post

You already know find out how to construct sentences in Spanish, you distinguish between ser and estar, you’ve  mastered the current tense and may even use the 4 porques correctly.

However speaking in regards to the previous may be your first massive problem.

There are two easy previous tenses in Spanish: the preterite and previous imperfect.

The conjugations and usages are completely different, inflicting many learners confusion.

However by the point you end studying this weblog put up, you’ll know the distinction between preterite vs. previous imperfect in Spanish, their conjugations, find out how to use every and extra.


The Distinction Between the Preterite and Previous Imperfect

Each the preterite and previous imperfect tenses describe actions that occurred up to now.

However the principle distinction is that the preterite tense describes accomplished actions that occurred at a selected time, whereas the previous imperfect tense is used for actions that don’t have a selected ending (resembling routine actions).

For instance:

I went to the seashore yesterday” would require the preterite tense

I used to go to the seashore” requires the previous imperfect

Now let’s take a look at these two sentences in Spanish, and see how the which means barely adjustments primarily based on which tense I take advantage of:

Yo fui a la playa ayer. (I went to the seashore yesterday.)

Yo iba a la playa cuando vivía en México. (I used to go to the seashore once I lived in Mexico.)

Within the first sentence, I used the preterite tense as a result of the motion (going to the seashore) occurred as soon as, at a selected time—yesterday.

The second sentence has two cases of the imperfect. I used iba as an alternative of fui as a result of “going to the seashore” was a routine (or routine) previous motion. And vivía (I lived) is within the imperfect tense as effectively as a result of I lived in Mexico for an ongoing, unspecified period of time.

Preterite and Previous Imperfect Examples

Though each of those tenses are up to now, verbs have barely completely different meanings within the preterite and previous imperfect.

Listed below are some examples of verbs in each of those previous tenses—as you examine the sentences, do not forget that verbs within the preterite occurred and ended at a selected time, whereas the imperfect previous is used for unspecified durations of time and routine previous actions.

Verb Preterite Sentence Imperfect Sentence
Ser (to be) fuiste la ganadora.
(You have been the winner.)
eras la ganadora.
(You was the winner.)
Estar (to be) Yo estuve en casa a las 8 anoche.
(I used to be dwelling at 8 o’clock final evening.)
Yo siempre estaba en la casa a las 8.
(I used to be at all times dwelling at 8 o’clock.)
Hablar (to talk) Ella habló chino con su padre ayer.
(She spoke Chinese language together with her father yesterday.)
Ella hablaba chino cuando period pequeña.
(She spoke Chinese language when she was little.)
Contar (to inform) Me contó un cuento sobre su niñez.
(He instructed me a narrative about his childhood.)
Me contaba cuentos sobre su niñez.
(He used to inform me tales about his childhood.)
Comer (to eat) Nosotros comimos comida italiana el lunes.
(We ate Italian meals on Monday.)
Nosotros comíamos comida italiana todos los lunes.
(We ate Italian meals each Monday.)
Escribir (to put in writing) Ellos escribieron este libro el año pasado.
(They wrote this ebook final yr.)
Ellos escribían libros.
(They used to put in writing books.)

Preterite Tense in Spanish

Preterite Tense Conjugations

Many learners discover the preterite tense a bit harder than the previous imperfect, often due to the irregular verbs. However when you memorize the endings and observe, they turn into increasingly pure.

However earlier than we sort out irregulars, listed here are the preterite endings for our common verbs:

Pronoun -AR Conjugation -ER Conjugation -IR Conjugation
-aste -iste -iste
Él/ella/usted -ió -ió
Ellos/ellas/ustedes -aron -ieron -ieron
Nosotros -amos -imos -imos
Vosotros -asteis -isteis -isteis

As you may see, the endings for –er and –ir verbs are the identical. And aside from a few letters, the sample is similar in –ar verbs, making them simple to memorize.

Irregular Preterite Verbs

The 4 principal teams of irregular verbs within the preterite are: traer, decir and verbs ending in -ucir, verbs with stem change, ser and ir, and orthographically irregular verbs.

1. Traer, decir and verbs ending in -ucir

The verbs traer (to carry), decir (to say) and all verbs ending in -ucir (resembling conducir, producir, traducir and so on.) have the next endings:

Pronoun Conjugation Instance: Traer
Yo -je Traje
-jiste Trajiste
Él/ella/usted -jo Trajo
Ellos/ellas/ustedes -jeron Trajeron
Nosotros -jimos Trajimos
Vosotros -jisteis Trajisteis

2. Verbs with stem change

There’s a bunch of verbs that endure a stem change when conjugated within the preterite tense. These are the commonest ones:

Andar  anduv-

Poner  pus-

Caber  cup-                         

Querer  quis-

Estar  estuv-                     

Saber  sup-  

Haber  hub-                       

Tener  tuv-

Hacer  hic-                          

Venir vin-               

Poder  pud- 

Although the stems change, the endings are the identical as all different preterite verbs (-e, -iste, -o, and so on.).

Pay particular consideration to the first and third individual singular. You could be tempted so as to add an accent mark like we do with common -ar verbs, however on this case you don’t.

For example, I’ll conjugate the verb hacer (to do, to make), because it’s the one one in all this complete group that has a small irregularity: the third individual singular adjustments to hiz-.

Pronoun Conjugation
Yo Helloce
Él/ella/usted Hellozo
Ellos/ellas/ustedes Hellocieron
Nosotros Hellocimos
Vosotros Hellocisteis

3. Ser and ir

Ser (to be) and ir (to go) are very particular verbs, not solely as a result of they’re fully irregular, but in addition as a result of they’ve the identical preterite conjugation.

When coping with sentences within the preterite, you’ll know which verb is getting used primarily based on context.

Pronoun Ser Preterite Conjugation Ir Preterite Conjugation
Yo Fui Fui
Fuiste Fuiste
Él/ella/usted Fue Fue
Ellos/ellas/ustedes Fueron Fueron
Nosotros Fuimos Fuimos
Vosotros Fuisteis Fuisteis

4. Orthographically irregular verbs

Lastly, there’s a bunch of verbs which have a small spelling change solely of their first individual singular when conjugated within the preterite.

It’s divided into three subgroups:

  • Verbs ending in -car change c  qu
  • Verbs ending in -gar change g  gu
  • Verbs ending in -zar change z  c

Solely the primary individual singular is irregular. The remainder of the kinds—in addition to the endings—are common all the way in which:

Pronoun Verb Conjugation
Yo Tocar (to the touch) Toqué
Yo Regar (to water) Regué
Yo Cazar (to hunt) Ca

When to Use the Preterite Tense

1. One-time occasions and accomplished actions that occurred/began and completed at a particular second up to now.

Mi hermano volvió a las 8. (My brother got here again at 8:00.)

Ayer comí manzanas. (I ate some apples yesterday.)

2. Accomplished actions that occurred a selected variety of instances or occurred throughout a sure time interval.

La semana pasada fui de compras tres veces. (I went buying 3 times final week.)

Anoche me desperté dos veces. (I awoke twice final evening.)

3. When it’s essential discuss actions that occurred throughout a selected time interval, however are usually not going down anymore.

Me leí ese libro en tres días. (I learn that ebook in three days.)

Viví en Barcelona durante siete meses. (I lived in Barcelona for seven months.)

4. With the imperfect when describing conditions that modified in a single day.

Estaba soltero hasta que un día conocí a María. (I used to be single till at some point I met María.)

No quería tener hijos pero de un día para el otro cambié de opinión. (I didn’t need to have youngsters, however I modified my thoughts in a single day.)

5. When describing actions that have been a part of a sequence of occasions.

Me duché, desayuné y me fui al trabajo. (I took a bathe, had breakfast and went to work.)

Abrió la carta, la leyó y la tiró a la basura. (He opened the letter, learn it and threw it into the trash.)

Preterite Tense Set off Phrases

There are a number of phrases and phrases that present you could use the preterite tense once they seem in a sentence. They’re:

  • Anoche (final evening) — Anoche me fui a la cama muy tarde (I went to mattress very late final evening)
  • Anteanoche (the evening earlier than final) — Anteanoche no pude dormir (I couldn’t sleep the evening earlier than final)
  • Ayer (yesterday) — Ayer hizo mucho frío (It was very chilly yesterday)
  • Anteayer (the day earlier than yesterday) — Terminé el curso anteayer (I completed the course the day earlier than yesterday)
  • Ayer + [part of the day] (yesterday [part of the day]) — Ayer por la mañana fui al médico (I went to the physician yesterday morning)
  • Desde el primer momento (from the primary second) — Te amé desde el primer momento (I beloved you from the primary second)
  • De repente (out of the blue) — De repente lo entendí todo (I out of the blue understood the whole lot)
  • Durante + [period of time] (for + time frame) — Estudié español durante cinco años (I discovered Spanish for 5 years)
  • El otro día (the opposite day) — Lo vi el otro día (I noticed him the opposite day)
  • Entonces (then) — No supe qué decir entonces (I didn’t know what to say then)
  • En aquel momento / en ese momento  (at that second) — Lo entendí todo en aquel momento (I understood the whole lot at that second)
  • Hace + [period of time] ([period of time] in the past) — Hace dos minutos terminé (I completed two minutes in the past)
  • [Time period] + pasado  (final [time period]) — Estuve en una fiesta el fin de semana pasado (I used to be at a celebration final weekend)
  • Un día (at some point) — Period pobre hasta que un día me tocó la lotería (I used to be poor till at some point I gained the lottery)

Previous Imperfect Tense in Spanish

The imperfect is a kind of tenses you’ll like to study as a result of it’s tremendous common (solely three irregular verbs in the complete tense!) and the endings are simple to recollect.

Previous Imperfect Tense Conjugations

Listed below are the endings for normal previous imperfect verbs:

Pronoun -AR Conjugation -ER Conjugation -IR Conjugation
Yo -aba -ía -ía
-abas -ías -ías
Él/ella/usted -aba -ía -ía
Ellos/ellas/ustedes -aban -ían -ían
Nosotros -ábamos -íamos -íamos
Vosotros -abais -íais -íais

Because it was the case with the preterite, the endings for -er and -ir verbs are precisely the identical (be careful for that accent mark showing in each individual), whereas -ar verbs are completely different.

Now come the one three irregular verbs within the imperfect tense.

Take a couple of minutes and study them by coronary heart, and also you’ll have performed the toughest a part of the job.

Pronoun Ser Ir Ver
Yo Period Iba Veía
Eras Ibas Veías
Él/ella/usted Period Iba Veía
Ellos/ellas/ustedes Eran Iban Veían
Nosotros Éramos Íbamos Veíamos
Vosotros Erais Ibais Veíais

When to Use the Previous Imperfect Tense

1. Previous actions that weren’t accomplished (i.e., actions that lasted in time).

Mi hermano descansaba. (My brother was getting some relaxation.)

Yo leía un libro. (I used to be studying a ebook.)

2. Describing individuals, issues, locations and conditions up to now.

La casa period grande y tenía tres balcones. (The home was massive and had three balconies.)

El niño period muy guapo. (The boy was very good-looking.)

3. To set the stage for one more previous motion.

The second previous motion will usually want the preterite. It’s often used to say that somebody was doing one thing (imperfect), when unexpectedly one thing occurred (preterite).

The truth is, it’s quite common to see the imperfect of estar adopted by the gerund in these contexts.

Yo dormía cuando el teléfono sonó. / Yo estaba durmiendo cuando el teléfono sonó. (I used to be sleeping when the phone rang.)

Cuando empezó a llover estábamos en el parque. (We have been within the park when it began raining.)

4. While you need to discuss repeated or routine actions up to now.

De pequeño solía leer mucho. (I used to learn so much once I was a toddler)

Solía ir a casa de mis abuelos cada sábado. (I used to go to my grandparents’ home each Saturday.)

(Observe that in Spanish you may simply say “de pequeño” or “de joven” (After I was younger). You don’t must say, despite the fact that you may, “Cuando period pequeño” or “Cuando period joven.”)

5. When speaking about somebody’s age up to now.

Cuando tenía 10 años me rompí una pierna. (After I was 10 years previous I broke my leg.)

Fui a los Estados Unidos cuando tenía 15 años. (I went to the USA once I was 15 years previous.)

6. When telling the time or speaking about time up to now.

Eran las 12:00 cuando llamaste. (It was 12:00 while you known as.)

Period muy tarde cuando volví a casa. (It was very late once I got here again dwelling.)

Imperfect Tense Set off Phrases

As with the preterite, there are some phrases and expressions that mechanically set off using the previous imperfect in a sentence. Listed below are the commonest ones:

  • A menudo (usually) — De pequeño comía helado muy a menudo (I usually ate ice cream once I was a toddler)
  • Algunas veces (at instances) — Algunas veces mi madre no me dejaba comerlo (At instances my mom wouldn’t let me eat it)
  • A veces (generally) — A veces escuchaba a los Beatles (Typically I listened to the Beatles)
  • Cada [time period] (each [time period] — Cuando period joven iba de fiesta cada día (I used to go partying on daily basis once I was younger)
  • Con frecuencia / frecuentemente (steadily) — Frecuentemente volvía a casa tarde (I steadily got here again dwelling late)
  • Casi nunca (virtually by no means) — Casi nunca tenía dinero (I virtually by no means had any cash)
  • En aquel tiempo  / en aquella época (at the moment) — Period muy buen estudiante en aquel tiempo (I used to be an excellent pupil at the moment)
  • Mientras  (whereas) — Tú estudiabas mientras yo limpiaba (You have been finding out whereas I used to be cleansing)
  • Muchas veces  (many instances) — Muchas veces no sabía qué responder (Many instances I didn’t know what to reply)
  • Todos + [time period] (Each [time period] — De pequeño iba a la escuela todos los días (I used to go to highschool on daily basis once I was a toddler)
  • Todo el tiempo  (on a regular basis) — Ella lloraba todo el tiempo (She used to cry on a regular basis)
  • Soler (to often do) — Solía terminar de trabajar a las 4 de la tarde. (I used to complete work at 4 p.m.) 

Follow the Preterite vs. Imperfect in Spanish

La niña 1. tenía el pelo largo y rubio, y los ojos azules. 2. Miraba por la ventana cuando, de repente, 3. oyó un grito. 4. Se dio la vuelta y 5. vio que su madre 6. estaba de pie, con las manos cubiertas de sangre.

Mi abuelo nunca 7. supo que 8. tenía un hermano.

Mi abuela no 9. sabía que 10. tuvo una hermana.

En aquel tiempo 11. period regular tener perros en casa, pero mi madre no 12. quería. Todos los días yo le 13. pedía varias veces que me comprara un perro, pero nunca 14. decía que sí. Un día, sin embargo, 15. llegó a casa con el pequeño Chuckles en una caja.

Todos los martes 16. solía ir al cine cuando 17. tenía 20 años. Una vez 18. fui con mi hermano y 19. vimos una película tan triste que 20. acabamos los dos llorando.


1. We use the imperfect when describing individuals.

2. We use the imperfect when a previous motion lasted in time.

3. De repente triggers the preterite.

4. One-time, accomplished occasions require the preterite.

5. One-time, accomplished occasions require the preterite.

6. Actions lasting in time and descriptions of conditions are expressed with the imperfect.

7. Completed actions (my grandpa is useless) are expressed with the preterite.

8. We use the imperfect with actions that lasted in time (my grandpa’s brother was nonetheless alive when he died).

9. We use the imperfect with actions that lasted in time (at the moment my grandma was nonetheless alive).

10. We use the preterite as a result of the motion was already accomplished (my grandma’s sister was already useless).

11. En aquel tiempo triggers the imperfect.

12. My mom not eager to have a canine was an motion that lasted in time.

13. Todos los días triggers the imperfect.

14. Nunca triggers the imperfect in this sort of context when the motion (or on this case, the shortage of motion—not saying sure) repeated itself and lasted in time.

15. Un día triggers the preterite.

16. Todos los martes indicators a repeated motion, and it triggers the imperfect.

17. Cuando tenía 20 años is a typical imperfect development.

18. Una vez triggers the preterite.

19. We use the preterite with one-time, accomplished actions.

20. The verb acabar (to complete) indicators a end result or the top of an motion, and we specific accomplished actions with the preterite.


Congratulations—you now know the whole lot it’s essential grasp the preterite and previous imperfect in Spanish!

Don’t fear should you can’t bear in mind the whole lot now. It could take a while till it sinks in, however I hope you’ve loved studying this put up as a lot as I’ve loved writing it!