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Spanish Grammar for foreigners: Pretérito imperfecto

Welcome to your corner of Spanish! In today’s post, we’re going to talk about the pretérito imperfecto tense in Spanish.

The Pretérito imperfecto is one of the most commonly used verb tenses in Spanish to discuss the past. Unlike the pretérito perfecto tense that emphasizes a completed action in the past, the pretérito imperfecto focuses on actions that were habitual, continuous, or actions in progress interrupted by another event (expressed in the pretérito indefinido). It’s like opening a window to the past and observing what was happening at a specific moment.

Uses of the Pretérito Imperfecto:

  1. Habitual actions: Actions repeated in the past, describing actions that used to occur regularly in the past. For example: Yo siempre jugaba al fútbol los sábados.
  2. Descriptions in the past: The imperfect past tense is used to describe situations, places, or people in the past. For example: El sol brillaba y hacía calor.
  3. Actions that occurred in the past, but the exact starting and ending points are unknown: For example: Cuando iba a la universidad, estudiaba todos los días en la biblioteca. “Cuando iba a la universidad” is a moment in the past with uncertain starting and ending points).
  4. Expressing actions that were ongoing in the past and were interrupted by a specific event (which is expressed in pretérito indefinido). For example: Hablaba por teléfono cuando alguien llamó a la puerta.

Regular Verbs:

To the verb root, we add the following endings:

-ar ➯ -aba, -abas, -aba, -ábamos, -abais, -aban.

-er/-ir -ía, -ías, -ía, -íamos, -íais, -ían.

Form of the pretérito imperfecto in Spanish.

Irregular verbs:

In pretérito imperfecto, there are only three irregular verbs: ser, ir, and ver.


Yo era

tú eras

él/ella/ud. era

nosotros/as éramos

vosotros/as erais

ellos/ellas/uds. eran


Yo iba

tú ibas

él/ella/ud. iba

nosotros/as íbamos

vosotros/as ibais

ellos/ellas/uds. iban


Yo veía

tú veías

él/ella/ud. veía

nosotros/as veíamos

vosotros/as veíais

ellos/ellas/uds. veían

Common Time Markers with Pretérito Imperfecto:

Antes, cuando tenía XX años, cuando era pequeño/a, cuando era joven, siempre, generalmente, a menudo, todos los años/meses/días…

Here is the infographic that summarizes the entire explanation; you can find it in higher quality on our Facebook or Pinterest channel.

Infographic about pretérito imperfecto tense in Spanish.

I hope you have liked this explanation. If you have any questions, you can leave a comment, and don’t forget to share this post with more people. 😊

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