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THE PRETERIT AND IMPERFECT FORM

Use the preterit when you want: To indicate an action that took place in the past: Ellos se casaron el mes pasado          They got married the last month  To express an action completed at a definite moment in the past: Yo estuve en su casa por tres horas               I was in their house for three […]

Use the preterit when you want:

  • To indicate an action that took place in the past:

Ellos se casaron el mes pasado          They  got married the last month 

  • To express an action completed at a definite moment in the past:

Yo estuve en su casa por tres horas               I was in their house for three hours

  • To express a series of actions completed in the past:

Tu entraste, miraste y te fuiste            You entered, looked and left

  • To express actions that, because of their nature, are not usually repeated: to get married (casarse), to turn an specific age (cumplir años), to realize (darse cuenta de), to die (morir)…

Su hijo nació en Madrid  His son was born in Madrid 

Use the imperfect tense:

  • To describe actions that took place on a regular basis, that were repeated or habitual:

Yo veía a mis primos todas las semanas                  I used to see my cousins every week.

  • To describe ongoing conditions or actions in the past:

El teatro tenía tres salidas                     The theater had three exits

  • To describe people or states of indefinite duration in the past with no mention to the beginning or ending:

Su marido era alto                        Her husband was tall

  • To express age in the past:

Mis abuelos tenían setenta años                    My granparents were sixty years old

  • To express time in the past:

Eran las diez                       It was ten o´clock

MORE USES OF THE PRETERIT AND THE IMPERFECT

  • The preterit is used to “interrupt” an ongoing action:

Hacía un día hermoso y de repente empezó a llover                     It was a beautiful day and suddenly it started to rain 

  • The imperfect is used to indicate simultaneous actions:

Ana cocinaba mientras yo ponía la mesa     Ana cooked while I set the table

With these constructions:

Hacía + expression of time + que + imperfect

Imperfect + desde hacía + expression of time

Hacía tres meses que trabajaba en la oficina de turismo                      

I had been working in the tourist office for three months

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