Video:Learn Spanish: Difference Between Preterite and Imperfect Tenseswith Milo De Prieto
Learn the differences between preterite and imperfect tenses in Spanish so that you can use the past tense properly. Here are tips for the differences between preterite and imperfect tenses.See Transcript
Transcript:Learn Spanish: Difference Between Preterite and Imperfect Tenses
Hola, I'm Milo for About.com and today we're talking about some differences between the imperfect and preterite, the two simple past tenses in Spanish.
Preterite and Imperfect Tenses Refer to Different Durations of Time
Spanish uses two different conjugations to communicate ideas that are given in context in English. Regarding the preterite, think action that happened at a specific time. It refers to completed action.
When it comes to the imperfect think that it talks about action that occurred at a general time in the past (perfect equaling uncompleted). It refers to habits or actions without definite beginnings or endings.
The difference between these ideas are relayed contextually with words and phrases in English. These words can also be helpful in Spanish. Even if they are implied they can clue you in to which verb to use.
Words That Indicate Past Tense
Words that point to a specific point of time in the past would indicate the preterite:
- ayer: yesterday
- anoche: last night
- durante: during
- esta tarde: this afternoon
- la semana pasada: last week
- el mes pasado: last month
- el año pasado: last year
- hace tres días: 3 days ago
Words That Indicate Imperfect Tense
Words that express repetitive time or non-specific time would indicate the imperfect:
- cada día: everyday
- a menudo: often
- normalmente: normally
- nunca: never
- muchas veces: many times
- a veces: sometimes
- siempre: always
- todos los años: every year
Verbs That Change Meaning in Preterite and Imperfect Tenses
In keeping with the differences mentioned between the two tenses, some verbs change meaning when conjugated in the imperfect versus the preterite. This gives a further clue to how different ideas are expressed in Spanish versus English. For example: Conociste a mi jefe el año pasado. You met my boss last year. Cuando vivías allí, conocías mejor Roma. When you lived there, you knew Rome better.
Notice how the first sentence describes a specific action that happened once in the past, while the second is much more general. Here are a couple more examples: Anoche, quiso bailar tango. Last night I tried to dance the tango. Quería bailar tango. I wanted to dance the tango.
Supimos que no era verdad. We found out it wasn't true. Sabíamos que no era verdad. We knew it wasn't true.
As you continuing practicing these differences will become second nature to you. For more information on Spanish, check us out at About.com.