Spanish Grammar: The Imperfect Past Tense – Basics

Spanish Grammar: The Imperfect Past Tense - Basics

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Spanish Grammar: The Imperfect Past Tense – Basics
la gramática española: el pasado imperfecto – los básicos

  • Expresses a variety of actions occurring in the past.
  • Properly frame a story and express ongoing or recurring actions.


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When speaking about the past in English, you choose which past tense to use depending on the context and the meaning you wish to convey. In Spanish sentences, you chose which past tense you use depending on the meaning you wish to convey.

The Imperfect Past Tense:

 1. Ongoing or habitual actions in the past:

De niño Miguel jugaba afuera.
As a child, Michael played outside.

2. Actions in progress:

María caminaba por el paseo.
María was walking down the path.

3. Descriptions of traits, states, or characteristics:

El trabajador tenía mucha hambre.
The worker was very hungry.

4. Time (with SER)

Era la medianoche y llovía mucho.
It was midnight and it was raining a lot.

5. Age (with TENER)

Cuando yo tenía diecisiete años…
When I was seventeen…

6. Key words associated with time
(todos los días, siempre, frecuentemente, mientras, de niño…)

Yo comía hamburguesas cada día.
I ate hamburgers every day.

Yo siempre tomaba el autobús a la escuela.
I always took the bus to school.


¿Qué hacía José?
What was José doing?

¿Qué hacía cuando era niño?
What did you do when you were a child?

¿Qué jugaba?
What did you play?

¿Cómo se sentía?
How did you feel?

¿A dónde iban ellos?
Where were they going?

¿Quién era feliz?
Who was happy?

¿Cuántos lápices tenía usted?
How many pencils did you have?

¿Cuántos años tenía usted?
How old were you?



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