Two different kinds of tenses are used to express or indicate actions that happened in the past. In the lesson about Simple Past – Pretérito Perfecto, you can see that it is used to refer to actions that were completed in a recent past. Basically, the Simple Past refers to completed actions that have a definite beginning and a definite end.

The Imperfect tense – Pretérito Imperfecto – is used to refer to past actions that are not seen as completed, actions that were in progress without a definite beginning or end, or actions that were in progress when another event occurred. A good translation for this kind of sentences is the progressive form (I was, she was, he was, it was, we were, they were….doing something)


  • Cocinaba cuando mi hermano me llamó. I was cooking when my brother called.

The imperfect indicates a habit that a person used to do. A habit is a group of actions that were repeated many times, habitually.


  • Mi padre fumaba mucho. My father used to smoke a lot.

Finally, the Imperfect is also used to describe people, places, things, conditions of the past and to refer to time, age and date in the past.


  • La ciudad tenía muchos museos. The city had many museums.
  • Tenía 15 anõs cuando fui a Europa. I was 15 when I went to Europe.

When conjugating regular verbs in the Imperfect tense, you just have to preserve the root of the verb and substitute the terminations “ar”, “er” or “ir” for the following bold terminations:

Person Amar

(to love)


(to eat)


(to open)

Singular Yo Amaba comía abría
Amabas comías abrías
Él / Ella / Ud Amaba comía abría
Plural Nosotros Amábamos comíamos abríamos
Ellos/ Ellas/ Uds Amaban comían abrían


  • Comíamos en casa cuando él llegó – We were eating at home, when he arrived.

3 Irregular Verbs

There are just 3 irregular verbs in the Imperfect tense:

Person Ser

(to be)


(to go)


(to see)

Singular Yo era iba veía
eras ibas veías
Él / Ella / Ud era iba veía
Plural Nosotros éramos íbamos veíamos
Ellos/ Ellas/ Uds eran iban veían