The imperfect tense:
- describes something that happened frequently or regularly in the past.
- is used for descriptions in the past, such as describing what the weather was like or giving your opinion of something you did.
- tells us what something used to be like.
- describes something that went on for a long period of time.
This tense is used in four different ways:
(1) To describe actions, people or things in the past.
(2) To describe an action that started in the past and was going on or continued in the past.
(3) To describe actions that used to be done frequently in the past.
(4) To describe thing(s) which were going on in the past before another event started.
The imperfect tense translates any of the following English clue words or phrases.
I was eating. We were talking.
I used to eat. She was an interesting teacher.
(1) General descriptions in the past.
Example: La casa era enorme.
The house was enormous.
Describing what the weather was like.
Example : Ayer, hacía sol.
Yesterday it was sunny.
Giving your opinion of something you did.
Example: Comí pollo, era muy rico.
I ate chicken, it was delicious.
2) Saying what something used to be or would be like
Cuando era joven, comía muchos caramelos.
When I was young, I used to eat lots of sweets.
Cuando visitábamos a nuestros parientes nos daban regalos y revistas.
When we used to visit our relatives they would give us presents and magazines.
Both of these examples describe things and events that were repeated in the past.
(3) Describing something that happened frequently or regularly in the past.
Cuando tenía 10 diez años, hacía natación dos veces por semana.
When I was 10 years old, I went swimming twice a week.
Durante mis vacaciones del verano pasado me levantaba temprano, desayunaba e iba a la playa.
During my holidays last summer I used to get up early, have breakfast and go to the beach.
(4) Describing something that went on for a long period of time.
Cuando era joven, vivía en el campo y teníamos dos gatos.
When I was young, I lived in the country and we had two cats.
Cuando íbamos al campo podía nadar en el río y dar un paseo.
When we went to the country I could swim in the river and go for a walk.
(5) Was…doing and were…doing
If you want to translate was or were doing something, you must use the imperfect tense. These are the clue phrases that help you identify the tense and mean you must use the imperfect tense.
Hacía los deberes cuando mi madre regresó a la casa.
I was doing my homework when my mother came home.
Jugábamos al fútbol cuando empezó a llover.
We were playing football when it started to rain.
The imperfect tense is quite easy to form and has very few irregular parts. There are only two sets of endings to learn and only three irregular verbs.
Formation of the imperfect tense:
Take the following steps:
1. Take the infinitive of the verb you wish to use.
2. Take off the -AR, -ER or -IR.
3. Add the endings.
-AR endings: -aba -abas -aba -ábamos -abais -aban.
-ER / IR endings -ía -ías -ía -íamos -íais -ían.
The good news about the imperfect tense is that all of the verbs except three are regular. The three irregular verbs are SER, IR and VER.
|SER (to be)||IR (to go)||VER (to see/watch)|
|él / ella / usted||era||iba||veía|
|ellos / ellas / ustedes||eran||iban||veían|
To form the imperfect tense for regular verbs, take the infinitive, remove the –ER, -AR, -IR ending so you are left with the stem and add the following endings:
|-AR verbs||-ER verbs||-IR verbs|
|él / ella / usted||-aba||-ía||-ía|
|ellos / ellas / ustedes||-aban||-ían||-ían|
** NOTE – The endings for –ER and –IR verbs are the SAME