- Use -ar, -er, and -ir verbs in the imperfect past tense
- Use ser, ir, and ver in the imperfect past tense
The imperfect tense is one of two ways to talk about events that happened in the past in Spanish. While the preterit is used to talk about completed actions in the past that narrate what happened, the imperfect is used to describe:
- repeated, habitual, or usual actions in the past
- describe actions that were ongoing in the past
- describe what things were like in the past (what one “used to do”)
The imperfect can use time phrases that indicate repetition, such as “siempre”, “todos los días”, “todos los años”, “con frecuencia”, “usualmente”, “normalmente”, “a veces”, etc.
The imperfect tends to be one of the easiest tenses to conjugate, as well as the funniest—you try saying “trabajábamos” five times fast! Notice that the -ER and -IR verbs follow the same pattern and that the “yo” and “él/ella/usted” forms are the same conjugation. Here’s a chart of two example regular verbs in the imperfect tense:
|-AR: hablar||-ER/-IR: comer|
Note that there’s only one accent mark in the -AR verbs and it occurs in the nosotros form, while -ER and -IR verbs have an accented “í” in every imperfect ending.
- Cuando era niña, no había móviles. (When I was a little girl, there were no cellphones)*
- Yo chateaba por internet mientras mi hermano montaba en bicicleta. (I chatted online while my brother rode a bike.)
There are only three irregular verbs in the imperfect: “ser”, “ir”, and “ver”.