Preterite vs Imperfect • Which one should you use?
Pret/Imp • Both the preterite and imperfect tenses are used to express the past tense in Spanish. • This is difficult for English speakers, because we only use one tense for the past. • Knowing when to use each one is the trickiest part, but then you also need to remember how to conjugate each one.
When to use the preterite • The easy one to remember is the preterite. • Use the preterite to describe a completed action in the past with a definite beginning and end. • example-- Yesterday I went to the store. (Ayer yo FUI a la tienda.) • example-- Yesterday I played soccer. (Ayer yo JUGUÉ el fútbol.)
Preterite continued • When you tell about things you did yesterday or last week or last year, you use the preterite tense. • Example-- Last week I saw the Hobbit 2. (La semana pasada yo VI el Hobbit 2) • Example-- Last year I went to Disneyworld. (El año pasado yo FUI a Disneyworld) • Example-- Yesterday, I wokeup, got out of bed, combed my hair, and ate breakfast. (Ayer, yo me desperté, me levanté, me peiné, y tomé el desayuno)
The imperfect • The imperfect has more uses in the past than the preterite. • The imperfect is used for INCOMPLETE ACTIONS in the past (ACTIONS IN PROGRESS) • example-- I was doing my homework. (Yo hacía la tarea.)
El imperfecto cont. • The imperfect is used to describe things you ‘used to’ do... • Example-- Every day, Francisco used to eat spinach. (Cada día, Francisco comía la espinaca)
El imperfecto continued • The imperfect is used to describe things in the past, including the weather. • Example-- The boy was smart. (El niño era inteligente.) • Example-- It was really cold this weekend. (Hacía mucho frío este fin de semana.)
The imperfect continued • The imperfect is also used with time and age in the past. • Example-- Last year, I was 21 years old. (El año pasado, yo tenía 21 años.) • Example-- It was 5 o’clock. (Eran las cinco)
Pret/Imp- Which one? • Yesterday we didn’t go to school. Pret/imp? • I always used to eat Pringles. Pret/Imp? • Yo’ momma was cooking tortillas. Pret/Imp? • Sr. J was 21 in 2012. Pret/Imp? • It was 8:34 when class started. Pret/Imp? • Raúl forgot his homework. Pret/Imp? • They went to detention on Thurs. Pret/Imp?
Pret/Imp together • Sometimes both tenses can be used in the same sentence. • The ongoing action is the imperfect, while the interrupting action is the preterite. • Example-- While I was sleeping, the car exploded. (Mientras yo dormía, el coche explotó.) • Example-- They were in class when the bell rang. (Ellos estaban en clase cuando el timbre sonó)
Which one? • They were eating when the waiter came. • We were playing when class ended. • It was 5:00 when we arrived. • They were at school when class started.
Final Note: • Think of the preterite as taking a picture with a snap-shot camera. • Think of the preterite as filming a video with a camcorder.