The Preterite and the Imperfect (Pretérito Indefinido and Pretérito Imperfecto) are two past tenses that tend to become stumbling blocks for learners of Spanish as a foreign language. Students hardly ever find clear explanations as regards when to use which one. This can be frustrating as they are trying to narrate events in the past in Spanish. Native speakers jump from one to the other depending on their needs or point of view. This library solution is an attempt to give a clear explanation of the uses of these two past tenses in Spanish.
A. Read the uses and examples below, and think about which tense (Preterite or Imperfect) you would use to talk about the following:
1.An action that was repeated a certain number of times:
Eg.: Yo ya ..........(ver) esa película tres veces.
2.A habitual action in the past.
Eg.: A los diez años, yo .......... (jugar) al fútbol todos los días.
3.A situation, or background information in the past.
Eg.: .......... (hacer) frío esta mañana.
4.The beginning or end of an action or a state:
Eg.: En ese momento mamá .......... (descubrir) la verdad.
5.An action that takes place during a certain period of time:
Eg.: La maestra .......... (estar) enferma toda la semana.
6.A sequence of actions:
Ej: El sábado .......... (nosotros-ir) al cine, .......... (cenar) en un restaurante chino y luego .......... (volver) a casa.
7.Two simultaneous, ongoing actions in the past.
Ej: Yo .......... (comer) mientras Manuel .......... (trabajar).
8.An ongoing action in the past, that is often interrupted by another action in the past.
Eg.: Natalia .......... (desayunar)cuando .......... (sonar) el teléfono.
9.A description of a place or person; a reference to the weather, time or age.
Uses of Preterite and Imperfect
1.An action that was repeated a certain number of times: PRETERITE
2.A habitual action in the past: IMPERFECT
3.A situation, or background information in the past: IMPERFECT
4.The beginning or end of an action or a state: PRETERITE
This solution explores the uses of two past tenses in Spanish: the Preterite (Pretérito Indefinido) and the Imperfect (Pretérito Imperfecto). The examples and exercises provided here are given to clarify how speakers choose one tense or the other when they narrate events in the Past.