Spanish Preterite vs. Imperfect  

Spanish Grammar The Preterite Tense Preterite vs. Imperfect

Spanish has two past tenses, the preterite and the imperfect. Why is it so difficult for many students to understand when to use preterit vs. imperfect? The guidelines in this lesson will help you select the appropriate tense in the battle of preterit vs. imperfect!.

The preterite is used to describe completed actions in the past.

Escribí una carta a mi abuela.
I wrote a letter to my grandmother.

Llegamos a casa muy tarde anoche.
We got home very late last night.

Mis niños jugaron en el parque.
My children played in the park.

The imperfect is used for habitual actions or ongoing past actions with no reference to beginning or ending.

Mi carro no tenía radio.
My car didn't have a radio.

Hace años no existía la computadora.
Years ago the computer didn't exist.

Yo siempre andaba en bicicleta cuando era joven.
I always used to ride a bike when I was young.

Pensaba pasar una temporada en Madrid.
I was planning to spend a spell in Madrid.

Sometimes, these past actions were interrupted by another action:

Tú estabas en el área cuando la alarma fue activada.
You were in the area when the alarm went off.

¿Estaba alguien fumando cerca de usted cuando empezó el ataque de asma?
Was somebody smoking next to you when the asthma attack started?

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Popular Phrase: goodbye in spanish informal | Conjugated Verb: camuflajear - to camuflage [ click for full conjugation ]