The imperfect (imperfecto) is one of the two simple past tenses in Spanish. It is used for ongoing or recurrent actions in the past. It is also used for descriptions, states of being, and for providing background information about the past.
Regular verbs can be divided into 2 categories in the imperfect: –ar verbs and –er/–ir verbs. The regular imperfect endings are showed in the tables below.
|hablar to speak|
|yo hablaba||nosotros/as hablábamos|
–ir and –er verbs
|comer to eat|
|yo comía||nosotros/as comíamos|
Every October there was a huge pilgrimage. In the whole highway, I think there were twelve lanes, there were no cars, just, the carriage where the doll went.
There are only 3 irregular verbs in the imperfect: ser, ir, ver
|ser to be|
|yo era||nosotros/as éramos|
|ir to go|
|yo iba||nosotros/as íbamos|
|ver to see|
|yo veía||nosotros/as veíamos|
I think that the most difficult challenge for me was speaking in English.
The imperfect tense has two primary uses: to describe on-going actions and states of being in the past, and to state habitual actions in the past. The preterit and imperfect are each used quite differently in narration.
States of Being or Past Description
The imperfect is used to describe people, places, conditions or situations in the past. Some verbs occur more frequently in the imperfect when they are in the past since they typically describe states of being: ser, tener, estar, gustar, etc. But these verbs do sometimes occur in the preterit.A mí me gustaba negociar, me gustaba hacer otras cosas.
I used to like trading, I used to like to do other things.
Habitual Actions in the Past
The imperfect is also used to state habitual actions in the past. These past habits are often translated as used to. Note that the imperfect may also be translated by the simple past in English; however, the context, and often adverbs, let you know the action is a past habit.Ella y yo convivíamos con mi papá y mi mamá en la iglesia, nos íbamos de compras.
She and I used to live together with my dad and my mom in the church, we used to go shopping.
For more information about the uses of the imperfect and comparisons with the preterit, see also the page about narration.