basics of past tenses in Spanish - What is the difference between the Preterite and Imperfect?

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We'll begin with how to form (or conjugate if we're being fancy) the preterite & imperfect tenses.

 

IR – TO GO (THIS IS A SPECIAL IRREGULAR ONE YOU NEED TO LEARN)

Preterite                                           Imperfect

Fui                                                       Iba

Fuiste                                                  Ibas

Fue                                                      Iba

Fuimos                                                Ibamos

Fuisteis                                             Ibais

Fueron                                             Iban

 

HABLAR – TO SPEAK/TALK (AND ALL OTHER REGULAR AR VERBS) Por ejemplo: Cantar, Limpiar, Lavar…

Preterite                                       Imperfect

Hablé                                             Hablaba

Hablaste                                        Hablabas

Habló                                             Hablaba

Hablamos                                      Hablábamos

Hablasteis                                     Hablabais

Hablaron                                        Hablaban

 

COMER – TO EAT (AND ALL OTHER REGULAR ER AND IR VERBS) Por ejemplo: Beber, Vivir, Correr…

Preterite                                    Imperfect

Comí                                          Comía

Comiste                                    Comías

Comimos                                  Comían

Comisteis                                 Comíais

Comieron                                Comían    

 

TIPS ON HOW TO USE EACH TENSE:

Use the preterite when you want to say a completed, single action in the past. Eg: I ate a pizza yesterday. Comí una pizza ayer. You know it's completed action as the pizza is clearly now finished. 

Use the imperfect when you want to say something which was something you did regular or were doing for some time. Eg: Last year, I ate pizza a lot. El año pasado, comía la pizza muchas veces.

Also you use the imperfect to say something you were doing and then something happened during this time you use the preterite.  (Think of the preterite interrupting the imperfect)

EXAMPLE:

I was eating a pizza when I found my mobile phone.

Comía una pizza cuando encontró mi móvil.

So…. You were sitting eating your pizza when you spotted your pone under the table.

The Comía is the imperfect and the encontró is the preterite.

You can use this formation in your writing for almost anything! (It will impress your teacher) Especially good for holidays or if you need to tell a story or anecdote.

Think of some you can do & write them down. Here’s a start:

I was walking on the beach when the storm (la tormenta) started.

 

 

 

 

 

DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

YES….. HOPEFULLY! 

¡Buena suerte chic@s!

Rose H. GCSE Spanish tutor, A Level Spanish tutor

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