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The Imperfect


In Spanish, the Imperfect is used in 5 main instances:

1.To express habitual and repeated actions in the past:

For example: “cuando tenía diez años, nadaba mucho.”

2. To describe nouns in the past:

For example: “el coche era azul.”

3.To express an action in the past that has no specific time reference:

For example: “Ana comía mucho.”

4.To express an opinion or feeling in the past:

For example: “ella estaba contenta.”

5. To describe an action that was interrupted*:

For example: “comía mi desayuno cuando llegaste.”


*Notebook: The interrupting action is typically in the Preterite.

Formation: Regular verbs

The formation of regular verbs in Spanish is fairly simple. In their infinitive form, verbs end in either: -ar, -er or –ir.

To form the Imperfect Tense for regular verbs in Spanish, we remove the -ar, -er or –ir ending of the verb to obtain the stem.

For example: hablar - ar = habl

Then the correct Imperfect Tense ending must be added to the stem in order to indicate who/what is doing/does the action. 

For example: the stem of hablar = habl, the ending for I for -ar verbs is "aba", the conjugated verb becomes "hablaba" (I used to speak/I was speaking).

The endings for each person are as follows:

Therefore to conjugate the hablar, comer and vivir we follow these steps:

1. We remove the infinitive ending to obtain the stem

hablar - ar = habl

comer - er =  com

vivir - ir = viv

2. We add the correct ending to the stem:

Formation: Irregular verbs

There are only 3 common irregular verbs in the Imperfect in Spanish:

  • ir

  • ser

  • ver

Click here to continue to exercises on the Imperfect Tense

Published: 18/04/2016

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