Use of imperfect instead of simple preterite?

KirstieA2Kwiziq community member

Use of imperfect instead of simple preterite?

I'm confused about the use of imperfect tense (éramos) in this sentence below, rather than preterite (fuimos). I understand the knocking on the door as a specific, completed action that took place at a specific point in time, which I understand as characteristic of preterite (We knocked on the door/It was us who knocked on the door.). I understand the use of imperfect to discuss ongoing, continuous actions, so I'm confused in this example, because a knock is not an ongoing action that continues over time. I'm sure I'm missing something in my understanding; I'd appreciate some advice! Gracias!

Éramos nosotros los que llamamos a la puerta.

Asked 2 weeks ago
MarcosC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Kirstie, I think it is the way that “ser” is being used.  The action of knocking on the door is itself in the preterite:  “llamamos a la puerta”.  The verb “ser” is used to state a fact, that it was them who knocked on the door.  Overall I think “ser” is used to state facts regarding what happened.  Good question.  Looking forward to the response from the Kwiziq team.

DavidC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I think I can see what Marcos is suggesting: the "Éramos nosotros ..." is just 'background', secondary information - which explains who was knocking. But yes, it would be reassuring if Inma could confirm this interpretation, or add more clarification.

InmaKwiziq team member

Hola a todos,

Yes, exactly like you David and Marcos are saying. The imperfect used in "'éramos nosotros" is expressing some back ground information, Linked to the idea of "ongoing actions" as opposed to  completed (or sudden) actions, the same way we would say something like "Hacía mucho sol y había mucha gente en el parque..."

It's more difficult to see the nuance with the verb ser, because it's difficult to see it as "it was being us who..." If we turned it into the preterite (which you can also do):

" Fuimos nosotros los que llamamos a la puerta." then you see the whole of it as something "completed". For example, if someone asked "¿Quién llamó a la puerta?, someone would reply: "Fuimos nosotros" (It was us). The reason why it's more likely to reply with the preterite here is because the emphasis would be in knowing who "did that action" at that moment, so you make it the preterite. With the imperfect "'eramos" you imagine the people there standing in front of the door while they were knocking, like a "scene" more than a sudden action.

A bit tricky this one, it always is with ser and the past tenses. 

Saludos 

Use of imperfect instead of simple preterite?

I'm confused about the use of imperfect tense (éramos) in this sentence below, rather than preterite (fuimos). I understand the knocking on the door as a specific, completed action that took place at a specific point in time, which I understand as characteristic of preterite (We knocked on the door/It was us who knocked on the door.). I understand the use of imperfect to discuss ongoing, continuous actions, so I'm confused in this example, because a knock is not an ongoing action that continues over time. I'm sure I'm missing something in my understanding; I'd appreciate some advice! Gracias!

Éramos nosotros los que llamamos a la puerta.

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