Using ir in El Pretérito Imperfecto to express was/were going to [do something]

In Spanish, to express "was/were going to [do something]" in order to talk about:

  • actions that were going to happen
  • actions that were about to happen
  • a planned action or event

we use:

Verb ir in El Pretérito Imperfecto + a + infinitive

Have a look at some examples:

Yo iba a coger el autobús pero he decidido ir andando.
I was going to take the bus but I decided to go on foot.

Mi hermano iba a estudiar medicina pero a última hora cambió de opinión.
My brother was going to study medicine but he had a last minute change of heart.

-¿Vienes al cine conmigo? -Bueno, yo iba a tomar café con Marta.
-Do you want to come to the cinema with me? -Well, I was planning on having coffee with Marta.

Tengo que quedarme hasta las tres. ¡Qué pena! Iba a llamar a Carmen para ir a tapear.
I have to stay until three. What a pity! I was about to call Carmen to have some tapas.

As you can see, sometimes this structure is used to simply say what you were going to do,  what you were about to do, or what you had planned to do. 

Notice in this example that despite using El Pretérito Imperfecto which is a past tense we are referring to a "future" event.

-¿Vienes al cine conmigo? -Bueno, yo iba a tomar café con Marta.
-Do you want to come to the cinema with me? -Well, I was planning on having coffee with Marta.

Despite literally saying "I was going to" it means it "is going to happen".

A common mistake is to use the literal translation of "was going to" with:

estaba yendo a /era yendo a

instead of "iba a"

See also:

 

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

-¿Vienes al cine conmigo? -Bueno, yo iba a tomar café con Marta.
-Do you want to come to the cinema with me? -Well, I was planning on having coffee with Marta.


Tengo que quedarme hasta las tres. ¡Qué pena! Iba a llamar a Carmen para ir a tapear.
I have to stay until three. What a pity! I was about to call Carmen to have some tapas.


Mi hermano iba a estudiar medicina pero a última hora cambió de opinión.
My brother was going to study medicine but he had a last minute change of heart.


Yo iba a coger el autobús pero he decidido ir andando.
I was going to take the bus but I decided to go on foot.


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