preterite vs imperfect n.
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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.

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Preterite vs Imperfect

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preterite vs imperfect
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
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
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
  • 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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.