EL IMPERFECTO VS. EL PRETERITO When to use them and what they can mean
“used to” = IMPERFECT • Conjugate any action in the imperfect to mean that someone used to do something on a regular basis. • You will often precede this use of the imperfect with an expression like de pequño or de niño.
“was/were –ing” = IMPERFECT • You will usually use this meaning when you want to set up a scene and when some other action is going to interrupt the “-ing” action. • For example: I was reading peacefully when an anvil fell on my head.
time and weather = IMP • No debates here: if you’re talking about what time it was (a specific time, late, morning, early, evening, whatever!) it will automatically be the imperfect. • Anything weather related – unless you give a specific time period – is the imperfect. • example Son las diez y veinte. / Eran las diez y veinte. • example Nieva. (now) / Nevaba (past).
physical, mental, emotional = IMPERFECT • PHYSICAL talking about how someone was feeling – estar (sick, well, tired, etc.) • MENTAL wanting something, knowing something, thinking something • EMOTIONAL being sad, happy, confused, scared
describing a person, place, or situation in past = IMPERFECT • When you are describing someone or something using an adjective in the past, you will usually use the imperfect. • e.g. My grandmother’s house was big and pink. La casa de mi abuela era grande y rosada. • e.g. My teacher was nice. Mi profesora era simpática.
imperfect verbs • These verbs are almost always imperfect: • estar to be • parecer to seem • pensar / creer to think • querer to want • sentirse to feel (REFLEXIVE REFLEXIVE) • tener used with certain expressions (calor, frío, hambre, sed, sueño, etc P. 237)
PRETERITE = completed action in the past • An action that happened and is over with. • e.g. I ate breakfast. (Breakfast is over.)
PRETERITE = interrupted action • Somebody was doing something WHEN something happened. • e.g. We were taking notes when a space ship landed outside. interrupted by preterite imperfect
preterite verbs • These verbs are almost always preterite: • empezar / comenzar to start • terminar to end • llegar to arrive • entrar to enter • salir to leave / to exit • despertarse to wake up • acostarse to go to bed
había is imperfect version of “hay” Use había when you want to describe what there was or what there were in a particular situation. No había tarea ayer. Había muchas personas en la fiesta. hubo is the preterite version of “hay” Use hubo to say that something happened or occurred. You will put it beforethe event that happened or occurred. Hubo una explosión en el edificio. Hubo un terremoto terrible en California. HABÍA vs. HUBO
Sum up… • In general, think about the imperfect and the preterite like this: • Preterite: Used for completed actions in the past. The actions was done and over with. • Imperfect: Used for ongoing or continuous actions or states in the past. These often have no specific beginning or end.