Uses of the Imperfect & Preterite


We use the imperfect to describe habitual or
repeated events in the past.
We use the preterite to describe a particular or
specific event.
Uses of the Imperfect & Preterite

There are certain words that can help us decide:

The imperfect is often used with expressions like:

Siempre

Los sábados
On Saturdays

Todos los días
Everyday

A menudo
**These all imply repetition
Always
Often
Uses of the Imperfect & Preterite

The preterite is often used with expressions like:

Una vez
Once, one time

El sábado pasado
Last Saturday

Un día
One day

Esta mañana
This morning

Anoche
Last night
**These imply the event happened once
Uses of the Imperfect & Preterite

We say “used to” + verb a lot in English, to express
something happened repeatedly in the past. With
this, we’d use the imperfect.

Ex:
Carlos used to spend (pasar) the summer in
Mexico.
Carlos pasaba el verano en México.
We used to play tennis.
Jugábamos al tenis.
Uses of the pret. & imperf.


The preterite is used to describe a well-defined
action or event which happened at a specific point
in time.
The imperfect is used to describe ongoing actions or
events. In English, we say “was (were) +…ing”.
Uses of the pret. & imperf.

Examples:
Cuando Carlos llamó…
…yo estudiaba.
Uses of the pret. & imperf.
Carmen llegó…
…mientras nos desayunábamos.
Uses of the pret. & imperf.
Anita sacó una foto…
…de unos niños que jugaban al fútbol.
Preterite vs. Imperfect

The preterite is used to describe actions in the past.
 El
año pasado mi hermano visitó México.
 Vi
una escuela grande.
 Vi
la escuela muy bien.
Preterite vs. Imperfect

The imperfect is used to describe specific
circumstances:
 Time
 Era
el diez de abril.
 Eran las ocho de la noche.
 Weather
 Hacía
 Llovía.
mal tiempo.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
 Location
 Yo
iba por la Avenida Libertad.
 Yo estaba en la escuela.
 Age
 El
profesor tenía entre treinta y treinta y cinco años.
 Physical
 Era
Appearance
un hombre alto.
 Llevaba un súeter gris.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
 Emotional
 Estaba
State
nervioso.
 Attitude
 Él
quería aprender español.
 Ella tenía ganas de conocer México.
Preterite vs. Imperfect

Note the past tense forms of hay:
 Hubo
una fiesta.
There was a party. (specific action)
 Había muchas personas.
There were many people. (circumstance)
Preterite vs. Imperfect

When we speak in the past, it’s either a continuous or
isolated action
 We use the
imperfect to describe ongoing actions
(actions/events that were in progress during a certain
period of time)

We use the preterite to describe isolated actions
(actions which occurred at a specific moment in time)
Preterite vs. Imperfect

Translate the following sentences:
 When
I was a child, I didn’t speak Spanish.
Cuando era niño/a, no hablaba español.
 Last
night, I spoke Spanish with Ramón.
Anoche, yo hablé español con Ramón.
 Julio
had a CD player.
Julio tenía un tocadiscos.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
 Julio
sold his CD player.
Julio vendió su tocadiscos.
 Anita
was my best friend.
Anita era mi mejor amiga.
 Anita
left to live in México.
Anita se fue a vivir en México.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
 In
the summer we used to go to the beach.
En el verano, íbamos a la playa.
 Yesterday
we didn’t go to the beach.
Ayer, no fuimos a la playa.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
To Describe:
A specific
action or event
completed in the
past.
Yo visité Puerto Rico.
Use:
Preterite
Preterite vs. Imperfect
To Describe:
The circumstances
of a past action
or event
Cuando tenía 16 años…
Use:
Imperfect
Preterite vs. Imperfect
To Describe:
An ongoing past
action or event
Use:
Imperfect
Mis primos vivía en San Juan entonces.
Preterite vs. Imperfect
To Describe:
A repeated past
action or event
Use:
Imperfect
Ellos me invitaban todos los veranos.
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Preterite vs. Imperfect