You've already learned one past tense in Spanish—the preterite. But hold on, there's another important one you’ll want to learn—the imperfect!
The imperfect is what you’ll use to give background information, to share ongoing past actions or events, or to recount habitual activities. Use the imperfect when talking about age, health, or emotions in past contexts, or to describe repetitive actions from your childhood, like doing your homework (which I’m sure you did every night…). Where the preterite moves the plot of a story forward with specific actions and events, the imperfect sets the scene of the story.
Here’s a quick example where the first verb is imperfect and the second is in the preterite:
In this example, the specific action the preterite tells us to focus on is the alien landing in my yard, while the me eating my burrito, the far less newsworthy event, is settled into the background by the imperfect as an ongoing action.
Here are the regular verb endings. You’re so far down the road to becoming a VerbMaster that you don’t need much more intro than that:
What do you notice about the regular verb forms? Hopefully a couple things. First, the ‑ER and ‑IR endings are the same and second, those all carry accents in all forms, as does the nosotros form of the ‑AR verbs.
Again, we'll just break off the stem and add the corresponding endings to HABL+, COM+, VIV+.
We have come up with some helpful instances below of when you should be using the imperfect tense as opposed to another past tense. You should use the imperfect tense when you are doing any of the following.
Describing or giving information in these categories:
Providing background information such as:
Describing an ongoing state:
Narrating an ongoing action/event or multiple simultaneous ongoing events:
Narrating a repeated or repetitive action/event without specifying an end or number of repetitions:
Setting the scene (but then the preterite interrupts!):
Duration without a clearly indicated endpoint or timeline:
The only way to master these verbs is through targeted practice. Fortunately for you, VerbMaster’s intelligent tutoring system makes conjugation practice a breeze!
In this session, you’ll practice conjugating hablar, comer, and vivir in the imperfect tense. So what are you waiting for? Get to studying, you’re on your way to becoming a VerbMaster!
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