Pretérito e Imperfecto I


  • Identify uses of the imperfect for description and the preterite for narration of past events
Imperfect for description Preterit for narration
As you learned in Unidad 10, the imperfect is used to express:

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

Along these same lines, the imperfect is used to describe conditions of time, people and places in the past. The imperfect gives all the background information for when you are explaining a story. The order of events with the imperfect is often unimportant.


  • Play AudioCuando vivía en Barranquilla…
  • Play AudioHabía un festejo.
  • Play AudioÉl era guapo con pelo largo.
If the order of events is important to advance a past narration, use the preterit.

The preterit focuses on what actions happened first and last in a story.


  • Play AudioCuando llegué a la casa, inmediatamente me fijé en su amigo.
  • Play AudioDe repente, la música sonó y todos buscaron parejas para bailar.

When telling a story, the preterit is used to facilitate the events. This shows that one action was completed before the next one began. You can use time expressions to indicate the order of events such as: primero (first), antes (before), después (after), luego (then), entonces (then).


  • Play AudioPrimero llegué a la casa.
  • Play AudioDespués conocí a Ladislao.
  • Play AudioLuego bailamos.