Imperfect Tense in Spanish

Imperfect Tense in Spanish

How do you use the Imperfect tense in Spanish?

It’s time to learn how to conjugate the Imperfect tense in Spanish. Study Spanish verb conjugations with online lessons. Read about the Spanish grammar rules.

ar, er, ir

The Spanish Imperfect Tense is used to describe past habitual actions or to talk about what someone was doing when they were interrupted by something else.

Regular Imperfect Forms

There are only two sets of endings for regular Imperfect verbs in Spanish, one for -ar” verbs
and one for both 
“-er” and “-ir” verbs.

Note: To conjugate a regular verb in the Imperfect Tense in Spanish, simply remove the infinitive ending (-ar, -er, or -ir) and add the imperfect ending that matches the subject.

Verbs ending in -ar

Subject-ar Endings

Yo (I)-aba


Usted (You)(Formal)-aba







SubjecthablarEnglish translation

Yo (I)Hablaba-I used to speak

 (You)(Informal)Hablabas-You used to speak

Usted (You)(Formal)Hablaba-You used to speak

Él/Ella(He/She)Hablaba- He/She used to speak

Nosotros(as)(We)Hablábamos- We used to speak

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)Hablabais-You used to speak

Ustedes(You)(Formal)Hablaban-You used to speak

Ellos(as)(They)Hablaban-They used to speak


Verbs ending  in -er

Subject-er Endings

Yo (I)-ía


Usted (You)(Formal)-ía







SubjectcomerEnglish translation

Yo (I)ComíaI used to eat

 (You)(Informal)ComíasYou used to eat

Usted (You)(Formal)ComíaYou used to eat

Él/Ella(He/She)ComíaHe/She used to eat

Nosotros(as)(We)ComíamosWe used to eat

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)ComíaisYou used to eat

Ustedes(You)(Formal)ComíanYou used to eat

Ellos(as)(They)ComíanThey used to eat


Verbs ending in -ir

Subject-ir Endings

Yo (I)-ía


Usted (You)(Formal)-ía







SubjectvivirEnglish translation

Yo (I)VivíaI used to live

 (You)(Informal)VivíasYou used to live

Usted (You)(Formal)VivíaYou used to live

Él/Ella(He/She)VivíaHe/She used to live

Nosotros(as)(We)VivíamosWe used to live

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)VivíaisYou used to live

Ustedes(You)(Formal)VivíanYou used to live

Ellos(as)(They)VivíanThey used to live

Examples. Uses of the Imperfect Tense

In general, the Imperfect is used to talk about past actions, conditions, or events that occurred habitually or repeatedly or that were in progress at a point in the past. It is also used to tell time, talk about dates, give a person’s age, and describe characteristics, conditions, and feelings in the past. 

Habitual or Repeated Actions

Habitual or repeated actions are those that were done over and over in the past. These are often things a person used to or would do.

 cada día. – We used to eat lunch together every day.
Todos los sábados las mujeres iban de compras.- Every Saturday the ladies would go shopping.


Actions that Were in Progress in the Past

It’s quite common to see the Imperfect used to talk about something that was happening when something else occurred. It’s also used for actions that continued in the past for an unspecified period of time. When talking about a past action in progress that was interrupted, the action in progress is in the Imperfect, while the interrupting action is in the Preterite


Iba a clase cuando sonó el teléfono. – I was going to class when the telephone rang.
Mi papá cocinaba cuando entré a casa. – My dad cooked when I went house. 
A veces le dolían
 las manos y las piernas. – Sometimes her hands and feet ached

Times and Dates

The Imperfect is used to talk about times and dates in the past.

Eran las tres de la tarde.- It was three o’clock in the afternoon.
Era el 5 de mayo. – It was May 5th


The Imperfect is commonly used to talk about age in the past.

La niña tenía 4 años. – The little girl was 4 years old.
Los perros tenían dos años cuando los adopté. – The dogs were two years old when I adopted them.


Descriptions of Characteristics, Conditions, and Feelings

The Imperfect is used to give descriptions in the past, especially those that set the scene in terms of the senses.

Mi profesor era alto y tenía el pelo ondulado.- My professor was tall and had wavy hair.   
El campo era bello.- The countryside was beautiful.   
Hacía calor esa noche.- It was hot that night.
Me sentía feliz con mi trabajo nuevo.- I was happy with my new job.  
Quería mudarme a otro país. – I wanted to move to another country.


How/What things were…

The Imperfect is used to describe how things were or what things were like.


Era un señor muy alto – He was a very tall gentleman.

Era una señora muy rica. – She was a very rich lady

Las puertas estaban cerradas. – The doors were close.

La casa era grande – The house was big

Learn more about the Spanish verb tenses


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