Imperfect Tense in Spanish Grammar


The imperfect indicative or pretérito imperfecto de indicativo, is a Spanish past tense. We use it to describe a past state, to emphasise the process or habitual repetition of an action, or to express one past action interrupted by another.

Learn how to conjugate -ar, -er, -ir verbs in the imperfect indicative tense with Lingolia’s grammar rules. Then practise what you have learnt in the exercises. See the subjunctive tenses for the conjugation and usage of the imperfect subjunctive. In tense comparison, you will find an overview of all the tenses in Spanish grammar.



A Rubén le encantaba el fútbol. Se pasaba el día corriendo detrás de la pelota. Entrenaba con su equipo los martes y los jueves.

Su madre le reñía constantemente porque siempre estaba dispuesto a jugar un partido con sus amigos, pero nunca tenía tiempo para hacer sus deberes.


The Spanish imperfect indicative tense (pretérito imperfecto de indicativo) is a past tense. We use it:

  • to describe a situation or state in the past.
    A Rubén le encantaba el fútbol.Ruben was mad about football.
  • to describe past routines and repeated actions.
    Entrenaba con su equipo los martes y los jueves.He used to train with his team every Tuesday and Thursday.
    Su madre le reñía constantemente..His mother was constantly scolding him.
  • to describe a past action whose beginning and/or ending is not defined.
    Se pasaba el día corriendo detrás de la pelota.He would spend the entire day running after the ball.
  • to describe a background action that was in progress when a second action interrupted it, the interrupting action is always in the preterite tense.
    Mientras entrenaba con su equipo, se lesionó el tobilo.While he was training, he injured his ankle.

Imperfect or preterite?

There is more than one past tense in Spanish grammar. Many Spanish learners have difficulty understanding the difference between the preterite indicative (el pretérito indefinido) and the imperfect tense.

Learn how and when to use each tense with the tense comparison: imperfect or preterite.

Verb Conjugation in Spanish Imperfect Tense

To conjugate the Spanish imperfect tense in indicative, we remove the infinitive -ar, -er or -ir verb endings and add the following one instead. Note that the conjugation for -er and -ir verbs are the same:

person -ar
yo hablaba aprendía vivía
hablabas aprendías vivías
el/ella/usted hablaba aprendía vivía
nosotros/-as hablábamos aprendíamos vivíamos
vosotros/-as hablabais aprendíais vivíais
ellos/ellas/ustedes hablaban aprendían vivían


The following verbs are irregular in the imperfect tense.

person ir ser ver
yo iba era veía
ibas eras veías
el/ella/usted iba era veía
nosotros/-as íbamos éramos veíamos
vosotros/-as ibais erais veíais
ellos/ellas/ustedes iban eran veían