Uses of the Imperfect
You have learned to use the imperfect tense to describe
something that used to take place regularly.
You also use the imperfect…
To describe people, places, and situations in the past:
Hacía mucho calor. El estadio estaba lleno. Los
espectadores gritaban.
Uses of the Imperfect
Use the imperfect to talk about a past
action that was continuous or that kept
happening. (habitual action)
Los atletas se entenaban en el gimnasio.
Uses of the Imperfect
Also use the imperfect to describe the
date, time, age, and weather in the past.
Era el 4 de noviembre.
Eran las seis de la mañana pero ya hacía
calor.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
When speaking about the past, you can use either
the preterite or the imperfect, depending on the
sentence and the meaning you wish to convey.
Compare…
Este fin de semana tomé una clase de
cerámica.
Cuando era niño, tomaba clases de escultura.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
Use the preterite to tell about past actions that
happened and are complete.
El sábado, la clase empezó a las 10 de la
mañana.
Ayer yo fui a la playa con mis amigos.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
Use the imperfect to tell about habitual actions in
the past.
Cuando era niño, las clases empezaban a las 5
de la tarde.
Mis parientes siempre iban a la orilla cada
verano.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
Use the preterite to give a sequence of
actions in the past.
Cuando llegamos, la maestra sacó sus
marcadores y empezó a escribir en la
pizarra.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
Use the imperfect to give background details
such as time, location, weather, mood, age, and
physical and mental descriptions.
Eran las dos de la tarde. Estábamos en el
parque. Era un día de otoño. Todos estábamos
muy contentos.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
Use the preterite and imperfect together
when an action (preterite) interrupts
another that is taking place in the past
(imperfect).
Estábamos en la clase cuando entró el
profesor.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
Use the imperfect when two or more actions are
taking place simulteaneously in the past.
Mientras los niños merendaban, la abuela los
observaba.
Las reglas del pretérito:
Las reglas:
Los ejemplos:
To express an action that happened
one time in the past or you can count
the # of times it happened.
“BOOM” actions
(ayer, anoche)
Ayer estudié por el examen de
matemáticas.
A series of events that happen one
after another.
(después, luego)
Ana comió. Después de comer ella
habló por teléfono y al final ella hizo la
tarea.
(Ana ate. After eating she talk on the
phone, and finally she did her
homework.)
To interrupt an ongoing action in the
past.
(cuando)
Yo miraba la telé cuando sonó el
teléfono.
I was watching TV when the phone
rang.
Las reglas del imperfecto:
Las reglas:
Los ejemplos:
Progressive, ongoing actions in the
past to express what was happening.
(was, were, “ing”)
Nosotros comíamos los tacos.
To describe details, time, age, weather,
etc. in the past.
Eran las doce y hacía mucho calor.
We were eating tacos.
It was 12 o’clock and it was very hot.
Yesterday it was windy.
(Description “trumps” one time event.)
Ayer hacía viento.
Habitual (repeated) actions in the past.
(used to, would)
(cada, siempre, nunca, mucho)
Cada viernes íbamos al museo.
Two or more simultaneous actions.
(mientras)
Mi mamá cocinaba mientras mi papá
leía el periódico.
Each Friday we went went to the
museum.
My mom was cooking while my dad was
reading the newspaper.
Special Notes:
Haber (hay in the present tense): “there was/were”
Había (imperfect): used for expressing description.
Ex: “There were a lot of people at the party.”
Había mucha gente a la fiesta.
• Hubo (preterite): used to explain that an event took place.
Ex: “There was a party.”
Hubo una fiesta.
Some verbs are often used in the
imperfect to describe states of being:
Estar (triste, cansado, cansado)
Parecer (cansado, mal)
Pensar
Sentirse (bien, enfermo)
Tener (calor, frío, hambre, sed, sueño)
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Uses of the Preterite vs the Imperfect