El Imperfecto


  • Use -ar, -er, and -ir verbs in the imperfect past tense
  • Use ser, ir, and ver in the imperfect past tense

The imperfect tense is one of two ways to talk about events that happened in the past in Spanish. While the preterit is used to talk about completed actions in the past that narrate what happened, the imperfect is used to describe:

  • repeated, habitual, or usual actions in the past
  • describe actions that were ongoing in the past
  • describe what things were like in the past (what one “used to do”)

The imperfect can use time phrases that indicate repetition, such as “siempre”, “todos los días”, “todos los años”, “con frecuencia”, “usualmente”, “normalmente”, “a veces”, etc.

The imperfect tends to be one of the easiest tenses to conjugate, as well as the funniest—you try saying “trabajábamos” five times fast! Notice that the -ER and -IR verbs follow the same pattern and that the “yo” and “él/ella/usted” forms are the same conjugation. Here’s a chart of two example regular verbs in the imperfect tense:

-AR: hablar -ER/-IR: comer
yo Play Audiohablaba Play Audiocomía
Play Audiohablabas Play Audiocomías
él/ella/usted Play Audiohablaba Play Audiocomía
nosotros Play Audiohablábamos Play Audiocomíamos
vosotros Play Audiohablabais Play Audiocomíais
ellos Play Audiohablaban Play Audiocomían

Note that there’s only one accent mark in the -AR verbs and it occurs in the nosotros form, while -ER and -IR verbs have an accented “í” in every imperfect ending.


  • Play AudioCuando era niña, no había móviles. (When I was a little girl, there were no cellphones)*
  • Play AudioYo chateaba por internet mientras mi hermano montaba en bicicleta. (I chatted online while my brother rode a bike.)


* Remember that “haber” (“hay” in present tense, “hubo” in preterit, and “había” in the imperfect) is only used in the singular form.


There are only three irregular verbs in the imperfect: “ser”, “ir”, and “ver”.

Ser Ir Ver
Yo Play Audioera Play Audioiba Play Audioveía
Play Audioeras Play Audioibas Play Audioveías
él/ella/usted Play Audioera Play Audioiba Play Audioveía
Nosotros Play Audioéramos Play Audioíbamos Play Audioveíamos
Vosotros Play Audioerais Play Audioibais Play Audioveíais
Ellos Play Audioeran Play Audioiban Play Audioveían



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