The Imperfect Tense

       

The Imperfect Tense is one of two ways to talk about events that happened in the past in Spanish. The imperfect is used to:

  • describe repeated, habitual, or usual actions in the past
  • describe actions that were ongoing in the past
  • describe what things were like in the past
  • describe time and people's ages in the past

For example:

Usualmente él llegaba a la escuela temprano.
He usually arrived at school early.

Yo dibujaba mientras que ella pintaba.
I was drawing while she was painting.

La ciudad era vieja y sucia.
The city was old and dirty.

Isabel tenía ocho años.
Isabel was eight years old.

For more on when to use the Imperfect Tense, see Using the Imperfect and the Preterite. To learn how to conjugate in the imperfect tense, keep reading:

Regular Imperfect Tense Verbs

The imperfect happens to be one of the easiest tenses to conjugate in Spanish; to conjugate "-ar" verbs, take off the ending and add the following:

"-ar" endings:

-aba

-ábamos

-abas

-abais

-aba

-aban

This can lead to some rather funny sounding conjugations like trabajaba. Note that there's only one accent mark and it occurs in the nosotros form.

To conjugate "-er" and "-ir" verbs take off the endings and add the following:

"-er" / "-ir" endings:

-ía

-íamos

-ías

-íais

-ía

-ían

Notice that there is an accented "i" in every conjugation.

Here are some examples:

hablar:

comer:

vivir:

hablaba

hablábamos

hablabas

hablabais

hablaba

hablaban

comía

comíamos

comías

comíais

comía

comían

vivía

vivíamos

vivías

vivíais

vivía

vivían

Let's practice! Conjugate regular imperfect tense verbs on ¡Practiquemos!

Irregular Imperfect Tense Verbs

There are only three irregular imperfect conjugations in the entire Spanish language and they are ir, ser, and ver.

Ir

Ir means "to go," and its conjugations sort of look like a hybrid between "-ar" and "-er/-ir" endings:

iba

íbamos

ibas

ibais

iba

iban

Please notice that these are conjugations, not endings.

Ser

Ser means "to be," and it's conjugations are totally irregular:

era

éramos

eras

erais

era

eran

Ver

Ver means "to see" or "to watch." At first glance it may not look irregular; it has the regular endings for "-er/-ir" verbs, but in this case we're only going to take of the "-r" rather than the "-er" before conjugating:

veía

veíamos

veías

veíais

veía

veían

Let's practice! Conjugate regular and irregular imperfect tense verbs on ¡Practiquemos!

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