Preterit versus imperfect(El pretérito versus el imperfecto) In Spanish, the use of the preterit and the imperfect reflects the way the speaker viewsthe action or event being expressed. The uses of these two tenses are compared on the following slides.
Criteria for the use of the preterit1. An action that the speaker views as terminated or completed. V • Me casé en 1981. I got married in 1981. Alfredo salió para España ayer. Alfredo left for Spain yesterday. Berta compró un coche nuevo el año pasado. Berta bought a new car last year.
Criteria for the use of the preterit2. An action or state that occupies a limited period of time. Lorena estudió por dos horas. Lorena studied for two hours. Los niños pasaron todo el día en el parque. The children spent the whole day in the park. Estuvimos en Oaxaca todo el mes de julio. We were in Oaxaca the entire month of July.
Criteria for the use of the preterit3. A past action with a specific and indicated beginning or ending. •El concierto comenzó a las siete. The concert began at seven. •Empecé a trabajar en el proyecto esta mañana. I began to work on the project this morning.Cesó de llover a eso de las cinco de la tarde. It stopped raining around five in the afternoon.
Criteria for the use of the preterit4. Completed events that occurred in a series. V V • • V •Carlos entró en la farmacia, vio a su ex-noviay salió inmediatamente. Carlos entered the Pharmacy, saw his ex-girlfriend, and left immediately.
Criteria for the use of the preterit5. Changes in mental, physical, and emotional conditions or states in the past.Alejandra se puso furiosa cuando vio elcuarto en desorden. Alejandra became furious when she saw the messy room.Estuve nerviosa durante la entrevista. I was nervous during the interview (but now I’m not).
Criteria for the use of the preterit6. Weather and scenes as events or within specific time parameters.Ayer fue un día horrible. Llovió e hizo muchoviento. Yesterday was a horrible day. It rained and was very windy.
Criteria for the use of the imperfect1. Description of what was happening in the past, usually in relation to another event or at a given time, with no reference to the beginning or end of an action. Rosa hablaba mientras miraba sus compras. Rosa was talking while she was looking at her purchases.
Criteria for the use of the imperfect2. Habitual actions or events in the past. Pedro comía en ese restaurante todos los sábados. Pedro used to eat at that restaurant every Saturday. Ana iba de compras todo el tiempo. Ana used to go shopping all the time.
Criteria for the use of the imperfect3. Time of day and age in the past. Eran las once de la noche. It was eleven o’clock at night. Paco tenía diez años cuando aprendió a nadar. Paco was ten years old when he learned to swim.
Criteria for the use of the imperfect4. Mental, physical, and emotional conditions or states in the past. Alicia estaba contenta durante el concierto. Alicia was happy during the concert. Nos sentíamos mal después de comer allí. We felt sick after eating there. Juan pensaba que necesitaba más dinero del que tenía para el viaje. Juan thought that he needed more money than he had for the trip.
Criteria for the use of the imperfect5. Sets the scene (weather, activities in progress, etc.) for other actions and events that take place. Hacía muy mal tiempo y llovía. Yo leía en mi cuarto y esperaba la llamada. The weather was bad and it was raining. I was reading in my room and waiting for the call.
Criteria for the use of the imperfect6. Indirect statements. Juan dijo que su hermano vendía su coche. Juan said that his brother was selling his car. Teodoro afirmó que su hermano decía la verdad. Teodoro stated that his brother was telling the truth.
Criteria for the use of the imperfectThe preterit and the imperfect tenses are often used together.In the following examples, the imperfect describes what washappening or in progress when another action (in the preterit)interrupted and took place. Conversábamos con el dependiente cuando Lourdes entró en la joyería. We were talking with the clerk when Lourdes entered the jewelry store. Las chicas salían de la tienda cuando Jorge las vio. The girls were leaving the store when Jorge saw them.