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8.2: El imperfecto

  • Page ID
    74836
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    The imperfect

    You have learned to use past tense using "pretérito". Now, you are going to learn a different way to describe about past actions using "imperfecto".

    Verb conjugation

    We are going to learn the conjugation of:

    • Regular verbs;
    • Stem changing verbs; and
    • Irregular verbs (there are only three: ir, ser y ver)

    Regular verbs

    In the chart below, you will see the verbs "-ar", "-er and -ir" ending in the imperfect tense in bold. Verbs "tomar", "leer" and "escribir" are conjugated in the imperfect tense shown in bold.

    Subject Pronoun

    "-ar" ending

    Verb "tomar"

    "er" and "ir" ending

    Verb "leer"

    Verb "escribir"

    Yo

    -aba

    tomaba

    -ía

    leía

    escribía

    -abas

    tomabas

    -ías

    leías

    escribías

    Usted, él, ella

    -aba

    tomaba

    -ía

    leía

    escribía

    Nosotros, nosotras

    -ábamos

    tomábamos

    -íamos

    leíamos

    escribíamos

    Vosotros, vosotras

    -abais

    tomabais

    -íais

    leíais

    escribíais

    Ustedes, ellos, ellas

    -aban

    tomaban

    -ían

    leían

    escribían

    Stem changing verbs

    There is no stem changing verb in the imperfect tense. The stem changing verbs are conjugated like a regular "-ar" or "-er", "-ir" verb. Note that all verbs conjugated in imperfect tense shown below are highlighted in bold.

    • "Tener" (e: ie) and "almorzar" (o: ue): Cuando los niños tenían hambre, almorzaban en la cafetería de la escuela.
    • "Pedir" (e: i): Marisela siempre le pedía al mesero un vaso de agua y un café.
    • "Jugar" (u: ue): Nosotros jugábamos al fútbol en el parque cada domingo.

    Irregular verbs

    Subjet Pronoun 

    Ir (to go)

    Ser (to be)

    Ver (to see, to watch)

    Yo

    iba

    era

    veía

    ibas

    eras

    veías

    Usted, él, ella

    iba

    era

    veía

    Nosotros, nosotras

    íbamos

    éramos

    veíamos

    Vosotros, vosotras

    ibais

    erais

    veíais

    Ustedes, ellos, ellas

    iban

    eran

    veían

    Expressions of time used with the imperfect tense

    Spanish English

    Siempre

    Always

    (Casi) siempre

    (Almost) always

    Frecuentemente, con frecuencia, a menudo

    Frequently

    Mientras

    While

    Generalmente

    Generally

    Todos los (días, meses, años, domingos, etc.)

    Every day, month, year, Sundays, etc.

    Todas las semanas Every week
    Nunca, jamás Never
    (Casi) nunca (Almost) never
    Una vez, dos veces (# veces por día, semana, mes, año, etc.) Once, twice (# of times per day, week, month, year, etc.)
    De vez en cuando, a veces Sometimes
    Normalmente Normally
    Cada día, semana, mes, año, primavera, verano, etc Each day, week, month, year, Spring, Summer, etc.

    Uses of imperfect tense

    Here are the uses of imperfect tense with examples. Note that all verbs conjugated in imperfect tense are in bold.

    1. Habitual or repeated actions
      • Nos levantábamos a las siete todos los días.       
        We used to get up at seven every day.

    2. Age

      • Carlitos tenía 5 años en esta foto.
        Carlitos was 5 years old in this photo.

    3. Physical characteristics

      • Lucía era alta y bonita. Y siempre tenía una sonrisa.
        Lucía was tall and pretty. And always had a smile.

    4. Mental or Emotional states

      • Lucía era muy lista y trabajadora. Nunca estaba triste ni enojada.
        Lucía was very smart and hard-working. She was never sad nor angry.

    5. Telling time

      • Era la una de la madrugada. Eran las once.
        It was one in the morning. It was eleven.

    6. Describing weather

      • Era una noche de tempestad. Llovía y había relámpagos.
        It was a stormy night. It was raining and there were lightning.

    7. Events or actions that were on-going in the past/progressing

      • Yo tomaba el café mientras escuchaba la música.
        I was drinking the coffee while listening to the music.

      • Yo hacía la tarea mientras mi mamá preparaba la cena.
        I was doing the homework while my mom was preparing the dinner.

      • Nosotros estábamos cantando la canción mientras ustedes estaban bailando al ritmo.
        We were singing the song while you were dancing to the rhythm


    This page titled 8.2: El imperfecto is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by M. Barrio De Mendoza, K Gutiérrez, H.Ho, C. Lin, & A Stere Lugo (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .