Let’s find out what is Preterite vs Imperfect in Spanish. Study
basic grammar rules with online lessons. Read about how and when to use some important words and phrases.
What is Preterite vs Imperfect in Spanish?
Spanish has two past tenses: Preterite and Imperfect. Generally speaking, the Preterite is used for actions in the past that are seen as completed. Use of the Preterite tense implies that the past action had a definite beginning and definite end.
Paola bailó toda la noche.
Paola danced all night.(clearly stated beginning and end)
Note: It is important to realize that the beginning and the end may not always be clearly stated.
Paola bailó por cuatro horas
Paola danced for four hours (implied beginning and end)
Note: Generally speaking, the Imperfect is used for actions in the past that are not seen as completed. The use of the Imperfect tense implies that the past action did not have a definite beginning or a definite end.
Paola bailaba en la fiesta
Paola used to dances in the party. (no definite beginning or end)
Preterite and the Imperfect in Spanish
·The preterite tells us specifically when an action took place.
The imperfect tells us in general when an action took place.
When to use Preterite vs Imperfect in Spanish?
Note: Some words and phrases indicate specific time frames, and therefore signal the use of the Preterite.
anteayer (the day before yesterday)
anoche (last night)
desde el primer momento (from the first moment)
durante dos siglos (for two centuries)
el otro día (the other day)
en ese momento (at that moment)
esta mañana (this morning)
esta tarde (this afternoon)
la semana pasada (last week)
el mes pasado (last month)
el año pasado (last year)
hace dos días, años (two days, years ago)
ayer por la mañana (yesterday morning)
ayer por la tarde (yesterday afternoon)
Note: Other words and phrases indicate repetitive, vague or non-specific time frames, and therefore signal the use of the Imperfect.
a menudo (often)
a veces (sometimes)
cada día (every day)
cada semana (every week)
cada mes (every month)
cada año (every year)
con frecuencia (frequently)
de vez en cuando (from time to time)
en aquella época (at that time)
muchas veces (many times)
mucho (a lot)
por un rato (for awhile)
tantas veces (so many times)
todas las semanas (every week)
todos los días (every day)
todo el tiempo (all the time)
varias veces (several times)