Spanish Grammar: When to use the imperfect tense (A2)

Spanish Imperfect tenseThe PRETÉRITO IMPERFECTO  (the imperfect in English) is one of the tenses we use in Spanish to describe the past. Its conjugation is very simple, you can see it on this link. Now we are going to see how to use it.
We use the imperfect tense in Spanish to talk about an action in the past which is either repeated or habitual. English has several ways of conveying this was/were doing, used to do, would do, did:

Cuando era niño, visitaba a mis abuelos a menudo (When I was a child, I often used to visit/often visited my grandparents).

Nadabas cada semana (You would go/You used to go/You went swimming every week).

Cuando viviamos en España, ibamos a la playa (When we lived in Spain, we used to go/they would go to the beach).

The imperfect is also used:

  • To describe an emotional or a mental state in the past:

Cristina se sentía triste (Cristina felt sad).

  • With mientras (while) to talk about two things that were happening at the same time:

Teresa veía la tele mientras cenaba (Teresa watched television whilst she ate supper).

Now you can practice el pretérito imperfecto with our quizzes. You can also review how is conjugated and see how it is used in context with a video with subtitles  “Otros tiempos”Remember you can contact your tutor with any question you have. Don’t you have a Spanish personal tutor yet?

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