Using El Pretérito Imperfecto to express habits or repeated actions in the past (imperfect tense)

The Spanish tense El Pretérito Imperfecto is used to talk about habits in the past (used to) and to describe actions which were repeated in the past.

Read and listen to these examples:

Yo solía nadar todas las semanas cuando era pequeña.
I used to swim every week when I was little.

Tú siempre volvías del trabajo a las 6.00 pm.
You always came back from work at 6.00pm.

Edgar Degas siempre pintaba bailarinas y carreras de caballos.
Edgar Degas always painted ballet dancers and horse races.

Nosotros comíamos mucho pescado en Valencia.
We ate a lot of fish in Valencia.

Vosotros trabajabais en Madrid durante los años 80.
You used to work in Madrid in the 80s.

Los actores firmaban autógrafos después de cada función.
The actors signed autographs after each function.

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Nosotros comíamos mucho pescado en Valencia.
We ate a lot of fish in Valencia.


Tú siempre volvías del trabajo a las 6.00 pm.
You always came back from work at 6.00pm.


Edgar Degas siempre pintaba bailarinas y carreras de caballos.
Edgar Degas always painted ballet dancers and horse races.


Yo solía nadar todas las semanas cuando era pequeña.
I used to swim every week when I was little.


Los actores firmaban autógrafos después de cada función.
The actors signed autographs after each function.


Vosotros trabajabais en Madrid durante los años 80.
You used to work in Madrid in the 80s.


Q&A Forum 3 questions, 3 answers

Conjugating

For this lesson, would it be correct to say that you generally conjugate the verbs ending in "ar" to "aba" (e.g. hablar becomes hablaba) and that you conjugate verbs ending in "er" and "ir" to "ía" (e.g. soler becomes solía)?

Asked 5 months ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Celia

Yes, all -ar verbs that are regular in El Imperfecto take the endings -aba, -abas, -aba, -ábamos, -abais, -aban. And -er or -ir verbs that are regular in El Imperfecto take the endings -ía, -ías, -ía, -íamos, -íais, -ían.

The good news is that there only 3 irregular verbs in El Imperfecto. Here are the lessons for these ones:

Conjugate ser in El Pretérito Imperfecto (imperfect tense)

Conjugate ir in El Pretérito Imperfecto (imperfect past)

Conjugate ver in El Pretérito Imperfecto (imperfect tense)

I hope this helps

Saludos

Inma

Conjugating

For this lesson, would it be correct to say that you generally conjugate the verbs ending in "ar" to "aba" (e.g. hablar becomes hablaba) and that you conjugate verbs ending in "er" and "ir" to "ía" (e.g. soler becomes solía)?

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RA2

Pequeño / pequeña

Is it correct for a male speaker to say "...cuando era pequeña" ? All the audio files have a male speaker saying this, so I wasn't sure...
Asked 1 year ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hi Maggie

No. If it were a male speaker he should say "cuando era pequeño".

The audio has been changed so it is now a female voice.

Thanks for reporting it.

Inma

Pequeño / pequeña

Is it correct for a male speaker to say "...cuando era pequeña" ? All the audio files have a male speaker saying this, so I wasn't sure...

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i continue to have difficulty lay with pretérito vs imperfecto. In the sentence She sang in a rock band in high school, why is it ella cantaba ella

cantó?  I understand it is a repeated action in the past, however it is also during a specific time frame ( high school), which has been completed.  Este me cuesta mucho.  Por favor, ayúdame.  Gracias
Asked 1 year ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Abby

As you know the Imperfect tense is used to express a repeated action in the past, like the sentence you mentioned. I have changed the translation in English to "used to sing" so it is more clear. 

As you are saying, why not cantó? 

If you see this sentence in English, "She sang in a band during high school", despite having a timeframe that shows the action is a completed action (she is not in high school any more), this can take both the Imperfect and the Indefinido. If you use the imperfect: cantaba, the speaker is seeing "her" singing in the band during her time in high school, with no specific beginning or end. If you use the Indefinido: cantó, the speaker is seeing the action of singing as an action with a clear beginning and an end. 

We appreciate the difference between the Imperfecto and the Indefinido is quite tricky. It needs a lot of practice.

Here is a lesson about this. It is explaining the general difference between these two tenses

Using El Imperfecto vs El indefinido (general use)

I hope this clarifies your doubts.

Un saludo

Inma

i continue to have difficulty lay with pretérito vs imperfecto. In the sentence She sang in a rock band in high school, why is it ella cantaba ella

cantó?  I understand it is a repeated action in the past, however it is also during a specific time frame ( high school), which has been completed.  Este me cuesta mucho.  Por favor, ayúdame.  Gracias

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