El pretérito imperfecto de indicativo – Spanish Imperfect Indicative

Introduction

Pretérito imperfecto de indicativo, known as the imperfect indicative in English, 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 and use Spanish -ar,-er,-ir verbs in the imperfect indicative tense with Lingolia’s grammar rules. Then practise what you have learnt in the exercises. Check out the subjunctive tenses for the conjugation and usage of the pretérito imperfecto de subjunctivo.

Beispiel

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.

Zeichnung
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Usage

We use the Spanish pretérito imperfecto de indicativo or imperfect indicative tense is a past tense. We use it:

  • to describe a situation or state in the past.
    Example:
    A Rubén le encantaba el fútbol.Ruben was mad about football.
  • to describe past routines and repeated actions.
    Example:
    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.
    Example:
    Se pasaba el día corriendo detrás de la pelota.He would spend the entire day running after the ball.
  • to describe an action that was in progress when a second action interrupts it, the interrupting action is always in the preterite tense.
    Example:
    Mientras entrenaba con su equipo, se lesionó el tobilo.While he was training, he injured his ankle.

Imperfect of Preterite?

There is a second past tense in Spanish grammar: el pretérito indefinido or preterite indicative.

Many Spanish learners have difficulty understanding the difference between these two tenses and therefore, often mix them up. 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 endings -ar, -er or -ir and add the following endings instead. Note that the endings for -er and -ir verbs are the same:

person-ar
hablar
-er
aprender
-ir
vivir
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

Exceptions

The following verbs are irregular in the imperfect tense.

personirserver
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