I don't understand the following verbs. Where to use era, where to use fui?? Both are used in past tense.
Yo fui primero de mi clase el año pasado.
Here fui represents ' I was'
Yo era el más pequeño de la familia.I was the smallest in the family.Here also era represents 'I was'. Why can't we use fui here? What is the difference? Please clear me anybody..
As John very thoroughly explained (thanks John!) this is one of the trickiest topics when learning Spanish - we do have quite a few lessons on usage of Imperfecto and Indefinido. I'll give you some links to Kwiziq lessons about these two tenses - I suggest you add them to your notebook and do lots of practice : ))
Using El Preterito Indefinido for completed actions in the past
Using El Preterito Indefinido to talk about experiences
Using el Preterito Indefinido combined with cuando + Preterito Imperfecto
Using El Preterito Imperfecto to describe a situation in the past
Using El Pretérito Imperfecto to express habits or repeated actions in the past (imperfect tense)
Using the verb ser in El Imperfecto vs. El Indefinido
Using the verb estar in El Imperfecto vs. El Indefinido
I hope they are useful.
I suggest you go through the lessons in the grammar sections to help you better understand. They are really helpful.
The difference between the Pretérito Indefinido (fuí) and the Pretérito Imperfecto (era) is subtle to English speakers. There is a lot of time and work involved in coming to an understanding of these two, so take your time and work through the different lessons on the course. Make an action point of doing this and any quiz that comes your way because it will help greatly.
Simply speaking, if you are talking about an event which is definitely completed, then you use the Pretérito Indefinido (fuí). That "completion" must be obvious in the sentence or context.
If the verb is referring to an event or action which is more descriptive like narrating a story or describing what was going on at a particular time, you use the Pretérito Imperfecto (era). In a dynamic narrative like the following, you use both; "while I was doing "x" (Pret. Imperfecto) "y" happened (Pret Indefinido). The word "while" gives you a hint as to the use of the imperfecto in that it conveys the sense of something "ongoing in the past."
Now ... as to your example "I was the smallest in the family;" this is descriptive in its tone; it is describing size in the family - hence the Pretérito Imperfecto. There is no sense in that sentence, of the smallness being a completed action. Of course if the sentence is "I was the smallest in the family until the summer of 1997), then of course there is a sense of a definite end to being the smallest, and you would use the Pretérito Indefinido.
Spanish is strict about the difference; English relies on context most of the time. Have fun with this because it takes time.
A perfectly, wonderful explanation! I hope other students come across this, as they will find it extremely helpful.
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