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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
  • planned actions or events

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

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.
-¿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.

Q&A Forum 1 question, 4 answers

IanC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

I was going to vs I was about to.

10________ avisarte de que la fiesta se ha cancelado. I was about to warn you that the party is cancelled.Iba aEstuve aFuiEstaba yendo a Tuve que

I was completely thrown by the inclusion of the words "About to".


Iba a avisarte would just mean "I was going to warn you"

I was about to warn you should surely be:  "Estaba a punto de advertirte"   Not given as an option


Best


Ian

Asked 4 months ago
IanC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Hope someone picks up on this comment.

InmaKwiziq team member

Hola Ian

"Estar a punto de hacer algo" means "to be about to do something" as you said, but in our lesson on

 Verb ir in El Pretérito Imperfecto + a + infinitive

we explain that this structure can be used to express 3  ideas:

  • actions that were going to happen
  • actions that were about to happen
  • planned actions or events

Depending on the context it means one thing or another. We give different examples in the lesson to show these different nuances.

The question you are pointing out has this specific meaning of "being about to do something", although it could also simply mean "was going to". 

For example, in this other sentence:

Menos mal que has llegado. Estaba preocupada. Iba a llamar a la policía.

(Thank God you arrived. I was worried. I was about to/was going to call the police.)

So there is an extra nuance here of being about to.

You could of course say:

...Estaba a punto de llamar a la policía.

That would also be correct.

Saludos 

Inma

IanC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Further explloration of the specific meaning of "I was about to do something" leads me to believe that "Iba a hacer algo, doesn't really translate into "I was about to do someting"  , more "I was going to do something, but not right now"

Copy from similar query onnline below:

Estar a punto de ...... is the construction you want to use. When something is very close to the point of happening, when something was very close to the point of happening.

Estaba a punto de ducharme ....

A native is not going to say iba a ducharme for I was just about, it just doesn't mean the same thing.

IanC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Further explloration of the specific meaning of "I was about to do something" leads me to believe that "Iba a hacer algo, doesn't really translate into "I was about to do someting"  , more "I was going to do something, but not right now"

Copy from similar query onnline below:

Estar a punto de ...... is the construction you want to use. When something is very close to the point of happening, when something was very close to the point of happening.

Estaba a punto de ducharme ....

A native is not going to say iba a ducharme for I was just about, it just doesn't mean the same thing.

I was going to vs I was about to.

10________ avisarte de que la fiesta se ha cancelado. I was about to warn you that the party is cancelled.Iba aEstuve aFuiEstaba yendo a Tuve que

I was completely thrown by the inclusion of the words "About to".


Iba a avisarte would just mean "I was going to warn you"

I was about to warn you should surely be:  "Estaba a punto de advertirte"   Not given as an option


Best


Ian

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