Learn the Imperfect Tense in Spanish. Also called the imperfect indicative, imperfect past, or by the Spanish the imperfecto de indicativo.

The Imperfect tense is another simple Spanish past tense.

The other Spanish past tense is the preterit (preterito) although there are a number of other ways of describing past actions through the use of compound phrases (eg I was eating, he was going to eat etc, he had been eating, we have been eating).

The imperfect tense is called imperfecto or imperfecto de indicativo in Spanish and is used for actions which were:

- continuous, or progressive, in the past, but which are not complete or may not have been completed.

- It is used for actions that were happening at the same time as another. It is also used for actions in the past that might have been a habitual type of action.

- It can also be used for English verbs ending in -ED, and also for concepts such as "I WAS DOING something when you walked in."

- The Spanish imperfect tense is also used to describe mental, physical states and ...

- the imperfect tense is used to tell the time in the past . . .

- it is also used in context of 'used to'... e.g. I used to live in Chile, you used to like Spanish movies.

How to construct the imperfect tense in Spanish

For AR verbs take the STEM and add the endings. . .

-aba-abas-aba-abamos-abais-aban

So for hablar we take the stem of 'habl-' and add the endings so that it becomes the following in the imperfect past tense in Spanish.

hablar
imperfect past tense: was talking, talked
hablaba hablabamos
hablabas hablabais
hablaba hablaban

For ER and IR verbs take the STEM and add the endings. . .

ía-ías-ía-íamos-íais-ían

I slept, I was sleeping (continuous - incomplete)

Take the stem from the infinitive of dormir = dorm- (dormir = to sleep)

dorm + -ía-ías-ía-íamos-íais-ían

So dormir (to sleep) becomes:

dormir
imperfect past tense: was sleeping, slept
dormía dormíamos
dormías dormíais
dormía dormían

Traer (to bring) becomes was bringing, brought (continuous - incomplete).

From the infinitive of traer take the

stem = tra- + ía-ías-ía-íamos-íais-ían

tra + -ía-ías-ía-íamos-íais-ían

traer
imperfect past tense: was bringing
traía traíamos
traías traíais
traía traían

Comer, was eating (imperfect) (ER verbs)

comer
imperfect past tense: was eating, ate
comía comíamos
comías comíais
comía comían

I was living etc (imperfect) (IR verbs)

vivir
imperfect past tense: was living, lived
vivía vivíamos
vivías vivíais
vivía vivían

Irregular Verbs in the Imperfect – there are ONLY 3 (Hooray!!)

Unlike some of the irregulars the fathers and mothers of the Spanish language decided to make their normally difficult verb structure a little more straightforward for students of the imperfect tense.

Like the name of the tense itself it would it may have been closer to perfection had it deleted all irregular verbs but never mind.

In the imperfect only 3 verbs are irregular;

ir (to go), ser (to be) and ver (to see).

to go (imperfect tense pattern)

iba The imperfect conjugations for ir all the start with 'iba'.

ir
imperfect past tense: was going, went
iba ibamos
ibas ibais
iba iban

This is an important verb to learn as it can be used to form compound verbal phrases such as, "I was going to eat, you were going to eat etc" - iba a comer; ibas a comer.

to be (imperfect pattern) era The imperfect conjugations for ser all start with 'era'.

ser
imperfect past tense: was going, went
eraéramos
eraserais
eraeran
Note:The nosotros case takes an accent on the e to give éramos.

The imperfect conjugations for ver (to see) all start with véia.

see
imperfect pattern: was seeing, saw
veía veíamos
veías veíais
veía veían

To remember the imperfect pattern for to see they all start with the same form... véia

Are there any stem changing verbs in the Spanish imperfect tense?

Are there any stem changing verbs in the imperfect? No.
Verbs that may change their stem in the present tense or the preterite are conjugated, in the imperfect tense, like regular verbs. There are no stem changing verbs.

Some words are often associated with the imperfect tense.
  • always - siempre
  • frequently - frecuemente
  • daily - todos los días


Lots of Examples of Verbs in the Imperfect Tense

  • I used to speak (imperfect) yo hablaba
  • you used to speak (imperfect) tú hablabas
  • he, she, you (formal singular) was speaking (imperfect) (abbrev) hablaba
  • we used to speak (imperfect) nosotros hablábamos
  • you were speaking (informal plural) (imperfect) vosotros hablabais
  • they, you (formal plural) were speaking (imperfect) (abrrev) hablaban

  • I was eating (imperfect) (ER verbs) yo comía
  • you were eating (informal singular) (imperfect) (ER verbs) tú comías
  • you (formal) were eating (imperfect) (ER verbs) Usted comía
  • we were eating (imperfect) (ER verbs) nosotros comíamos
  • you (to children) were eating (imperfect) (ER verbs) vosotros comíais
  • they were eating (imperfect) (ER verbs) ellos comían

  • I was living (imperfect) (IR verbs) yo vivía
  • you (informal singular) were living (imperfect) (IR verbs) tú vivías
  • he was living (imperfect) (IR verbs) él vivía
  • we were living (imperfect) (IR verbs) nosotros vivíamos
  • you (informal plural) were living (imperfect) (IR verbs) vosotros vivíais
  • they were living (imperfect) (IR verbs) ellos vivían

  • I was going (imperfect) yo iba
  • you were going (imperfect) tú ibas
  • he was going (imperfect) él iba
  • we were going (imperfect) nosotros ibamos
  • you were going (informal plural) (imperfect) vosotros ibais
  • they were going (imperfect) ellos iban
  • I was seeing (imperfect) yo veía
  • you were seeing (informal singular) (imperfect) tú veías
  • he was seeing (imperfect) él veía
  • we were seeing (imperfect) nosotros veíamos
  • you were seeing (informal plural) (imperfect) vosotros veíais
  • they were seeing (imperfect) ellos veían
  • you were seeing (imperfect) Usted veía

  • to be (imperfect irregular)
  • era- eras- era- éramos- erais- eran

  • I was (imperfect) yo era
  • you were (imperfect) tú eras
  • he was (imperfect) él era
  • we were (imperfect) nosotros éramos
  • you were (imperfect) vosotros erais
  • they were (imperfect) ellos eran

  • I was sleeping (imperfect) yo dormía
  • you were sleeping (informal singular) (imperfect) tú dormías
  • he was sleeping (imperfect) (abbrev) dormía
  • we were sleeping (imperfect) (abbrev) dormíamos
  • you were sleeping (informal plural) (imperfect) vosotros dormíais
  • they slept (imperfect) dormían
  • I was bringing (imperfect) yo traía
  • you were bringing (imperfect) tú traías
  • she was bringing (imperfect) ella traía
  • we were bringing (imperfect) nosotros traíamos
  • you were bringing (informal plural) (imperfect) vosotros traíais
  • they were bringing (imperfect) (abbrev) traían

Useful Constructions using the Imperfect tense of ‘to go’

A common expression and a useful one is the 'I was going to talk' family of expressions. yo iba a hablar. (I was going to talk)

This one works for every infinitive!

So you learn the 6 main conjugations - yo iba, tú ibas, él, ella, Usted iba, nosotros ibamos, vosotros ibais, ellos, ellas, Ustedes iban, and then just add 'a' and the infinitive.

I was going to (do something) yo iba a + infinitive

This is an important verb to learn as it can be used to form compound verbal phrases such as, "I was going to eat, you were going to eat etc" – iba a comer; iba a comer.

Spanish imperfect tense – IR - TO GO.
I was going yo iba we were going nosotros ibamos
you were going tú ibas you were going vosotros ibais
he was going: él iba they were going: ellos iban

Some phrases using the imperfect tense

I was going to dance:yo iba a bailar
you were going to join: tú ibas a juntar
he was going to show:él iba a mostrar
we were going to bring:nosotros ibamos a traer
you were going to show (informal plural) vosotros ibais a ver
they were going to sing ellos iban a cantar
I was going to to walk yo iba a caminar
I was going to close yo iba a cerrar
you were going to play tú ibas a jugar
he was going to walk él iba a andar
we were going to shout nosotros ibamos a gritar
you were going to sleep (informal plural) vosotros ibais a dormir
they were going to go (to a group of girls and boys) ellos iban a ir
they were going to sing (female) ellas iban a cantar
I was going to hang up yo iba a colgar
you were going to come tú ibas a venir
he was going to eat él iba a comer
we were going to live nosotros ibamos a vivir
you were going to put (informal plural) vosotros ibais a poner
they were going to die ellos iban a morir


To more effectively learn all verbs and verb structures, learn some basic rules and some accelerated learning techniques that are fun and easy.

To rapidly learn and remember verbs like the Spanish imperfect tense click here.



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