Unit 3.2

Imperfect preterite



The imperfect preterite [pretérito imperfecto] is a verb tense used to express past actions that are habitual, repeated or continuous. It is also used to make past descriptions.


The indicative is one of the verbal modes or categories in which the different tenses of the verb are grouped (present, past, future, etc.). It conveys authentic information.

The imperfect preterite has this structure:
(Subject +) Verb [root + endigns] + …

The verb root is the segment that remains after the ending (-ar, -er, -ir) of the infinitive has been removed (e.g. the root of the verb hablar is habl-).

The endings of infinitive verbs are as follows:

  • infinitive verbs ending in -ar:  -aba, -abas, -aba, -ábamos, -abais, -aban;
  • infinitive verbs ending in –er/-ir: -ía, -ías, -ía, -íamos, -íais, -ían.

The three conjugations in the imperfect preterite of regular verbs are as follows:

Persona -AR (hablar) -ER (comer) -IR (vivir)
Yo hablaba comía vivía
hablabas comías vivías
Él/Ella/Usted hablaba comía vivía
Nosotros/-as hablábamos comíamos vivíamos
Vosotros/-as hablabais comíais vivíais
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes hablaban comían vivían


  • En clase yo hablaba con mis compañeros detrás de mí;
  • Pasé por donde comías y no te saludé;
  • El romano medio vivía de lo que otros le llevaban;
  • Antes hablábamos más, pero perdimos el contacto;
  • En verano, antes de la siesta, comíais hasta hartaros;
  • Antaño vivían en un palacio a las afueras de la ciudad.


The imperfect preterite is used to:

  • describe objects, people, places or time in the past;
  • express past actions that are habitual, repetitive or long-lasting at a certain time in the past;
  • refer to the circumstances surrounding a past event.


The preterite imperfect is a verb tense used to express past actions, which are habitual, repeated or continuos. It is also used to make past descriptions.

To form the preterite imperfect, in Spanish, the endings -ar, -er, -ir are removed and -aba is added for the first conjugation and -ía for the other two conjugations, plus the personal endings.

For example:
— «Cuando era niña, hablaba mucho.»= Repeated action in the past;
— «El príncipe vivía ven un castillo muy grande.» = Describing characters in the past.

Check the contents of the {Form} section. Then move on the {Example} sections, which shows you the usage in context.


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