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Why estaban and not estuvieron?

MelissaA2Kwiziq community member

Why estaban and not estuvieron?

This was the question in the test that led me to this lesson,  but the lesson doesn't address the issue of choosing the correct past tense.

Ustedes ________ separados el año pasado.You were separated last year.
The hint tells you to use the tense for estaban, but I don't understand why since this seems to be talking about a definitive time that something happened.  Either the action of separating happened last year or the circumstance of being separated happened last year. Can someone explain why we should choose estaban over estuvieron (ustedes) besides the fact that the "hint" tells us to?
Thanks in advance for  any help!

Asked 8 months ago
JohnB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Hi Melissa,

This one caught me too because in English I think of separation as something that happens and is then over! But the actual words used are deliberately relevant in Spanish. I think it is because the phrase "you were separated last year" is describing a process that evolved over a period of time, albeit short perhaps, rather than something that took place at a specific starting point in time and / or ended at another specific point in time. If the sentence was for example "you separated on the 4th February," then you could use the indefinido "estuvieron."

There is a study page in Library/Spanish Glossary/El Pretérito Imperfecto which is great at giving you the feel of why the imperfecto is used. It talks about using the imperfecto when there is a sense of the prolongation of time. I think that is the case here.

I'm sure the teachers can add more to this.

Saludos

John

Why estaban and not estuvieron?

This was the question in the test that led me to this lesson,  but the lesson doesn't address the issue of choosing the correct past tense.

Ustedes ________ separados el año pasado.You were separated last year.
The hint tells you to use the tense for estaban, but I don't understand why since this seems to be talking about a definitive time that something happened.  Either the action of separating happened last year or the circumstance of being separated happened last year. Can someone explain why we should choose estaban over estuvieron (ustedes) besides the fact that the "hint" tells us to?
Thanks in advance for  any help!

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