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The Imperfect in Spanish

Spanish Imperfect Tense

Spanish Imperfect with common verbs and examples

Introduction:

The imperfect is not a very descriptive name for a tense.
I prefer to call it the Yabba-Dabba Do! tense because we can use it to speak about Fred Flintstone. Here is an example:

Fred Flintstone lived in Bedrock. He worked in a quarry. He started work at 9am. He was short and fat. His wife Wilma was pretty. Their daughter Pebbles was 2 years old.
At the weekend, he would eat a lot and he would go bowling with his friend Barnie.

Fred Picapiedra vivía en Bedrock. Trabajaba en una cantera. Empezaba a trabajar a las 9 de la mañana. Era bajo y gordo. Su esposa Wilma era bonita. Su hija Pebbles tenía 2 años. Los fines de semana comía mucho y jugaba a los bolos con su amigo Barnie.

The Spanish imperfect tense is used in the following situations:

1. HABITUAL or REPEATED ACTIONS in the past

This is similar to sentences in English with used to or would:
El director trabajaba en una oficina en la décima planta.
The manager used to work in an office on the 10th floor. / He worked in an office on the 10th Floor.

Mi madre cogía el autobús con mucha frecuencia.
My mother would often catch the bus. / My mother often caught the bus


2. TIMES IN THE PAST

Eran las 9:00 de la mañana.
It was nine o'clock in the morning.


3. DATES IN THE PAST:

Era el 25 de diciembre - Día de Navidad.
It was 25th December - Christmas Day.


4. AGES IN THE PAST:

Cuando el niño tenía 11 años, la familia visitó Valencia.
When the boy was 11, the family visited Valencia.


5. TELLING A STORY or DESCRIBING A SITUATION

Era verano, hacía sol y la princesa jugaba al tenis.
It was summer, it was sunny and the princess was playing tennis.


6. PHYSICAL DESCRIPTIONS OF PEOPLE (CHARACTERISTICS, FEELINGS, etc.)

La princesa era alta, tenía el pelo corto y tenía ojos verdes.
The princess was tall, she had short hair and she had green eyes.



HOW TO FORM THE IMPERFECT TENSE

Take the stem of the verb (i.e. the part of the verb before -ar, -er or -ir: e.g. tom- for the verb tomar) and add the following endings:

REGULAR VERBS

Subject -ar Verbs -er and -ir Verbs
yo -aba -ía
-abas -ías
él, ella, usted -aba -ía
nosotros -ábamos -íamos
vosotros -abáis -íais
ellos, ellas, ustedes -aban -ían

IRREGULAR VERBS

Subject IR To Go SER To be
yo iba era
ibas eras
él, ella, usted iba era
nosotros íbamos éramos
vosotros ibais erais
ellos, ellas, ustedes iban eran
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EXPLANATION:

The first line is a common verb in Spanish.
The second line is the translation of the verb into English.
The third line is an example of the verb in the imperfect in Spanish.
The fourth line is the translation of the example into English.

Use this lesson to learn how to read simple text in Spanish about interesting facts.

Related Links
You can see more examples of the imperfect in this Spanish story.

The Contents

to sing
cantar
It was spring and the birds were singing.
Era primavera y los pájaros cantaban.
to catch / to take
coger
When his sister lived in Madrid, she caught the metro every day.
Cuando su hermana vivía en Madrid, cogía el metro todos los días.
to eat
comer
He slept little, trained a lot and did not eat well.
Dormía poco, entrenaba mucho y no comía bien
to give
dar
My parents gave me a present every year.
Mis padres me daban un regalo todos los años.
to have breakfast
desayunarse
Every Friday, he would have breakfast with his friends.
Todos los viernes, él desayunaba con sus amigos.
to wake up
despertarse
I would wake up at eight o'clock every day.
Me despertaba a las ocho todos los días.
to be
estar
The teacher was always very angry.
El profesor siempre estaba muy enfadado.
to study
estudiar
I studied English and French at school.
Yo estudiaba inglés y francés en el colegio.
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