Preterite vs. Imperfect:
How to use the Imperfect tense in Spanish
The use of the imperfect tense is to describe actions and events in the past without a definite end. These can be actions that are not yet completed or to refer to a time in the past. The imperfect refers to the following:
- actions that were repeated habitually
- actions that set the stage for another event in the past
- time and dates
- someone’s age in the past
- someone’s mental or physical state
Cuando era niño, montaba en mi bicicleta.
When I was a child, I used to ride my bike.
Las chicas caminaban a la escuela.
The girls were walking to school.
Estaba durmiendo cuando ocurrió el terremoto.
I was sleeping when the earthquake happened.
Cuando tenía dos años, era muy difícil.
When he was two years old, he was very difficult.
Phrases that trigger the use of the Imperfect tense
Below are some helpful words and phrases that will let you know when to use a verb in the Imperfect tense.
- a menudo – often
- a veces – sometimes
- algunas veces – at times
- cada día – every day
- casi nunca – almost never
- con frequencia – frequently
- de vez en cuando – once in a while
- en aquella época – at that time
- frecuentemente – frequently
- generalmente – usually
- mientras – while
- muchas veces – many times
- mucho – a lot
- nunca – never
- por lo general – generally
- por un rato – for a while
- rara vez – rarely
- siempre – always
- tantas veces – s0 many times
- todas las semanas – every week
- todo el tiempo – all the time
- todos los años – every year
- todos los días – every day
- varias veces – several times
How to know when to use the Imperfect tense
The Imperfect tense can be quite complicated for a beginner learning Spanish. An easier way to learn the Imperfect tense is to memorize the acronym: CHEATED.