The Best Time To Use Imperfect Spanish
One of the most common questions beginning Spanish learners have about the imperfect tense is, When should I use it?
To answer this question, you must first look at your goals as a learner. If you aim to sound like a native speaker, imperfect tenses will help you achieve that goal—even if you don’t know when to use them correctly.
But suppose your ultimate goal is to develop advanced language skills and learn grammar rules. In that case, you should avoid using the imperfect tense whenever possible and always be mindful of its intricacies and nuances.
Imperfect vs. Preterite
Spanish, like many languages, has both perfect and imperfect verbs. A verb’s tense determines whether it is a preterite or a defective verb.
The preterite tense is used for actions that are completed in the past, and the perfect tense is used for activities that have been completed. For example, I went yesterday (preterite) vs. I have gone (excellent).
Spanish speakers often consider the preterite more casual than the perfect because it’s simpler to conjugate and has a shorter stem word (e.g., he went). However, this isn’t always true because you can use preterites in formal writing.
Preterite vs. imperfect Spanish: what is the difference?
The following scenarios are when to use imperfect Spanish in your informal conversations:
When talking about daily routines and habits
Imperfect Spanish is used daily, so Spanish speakers need to understand grammar lessons. For example, if someone asks you how you are doing, you would say, ” I am well, ” instead of ” Yo Estoy bien. If you need a refresher on Spanish tenses, visit our blog!
When describing a sudden change in events, feelings or weather.
For example, En ese momento, el sol brillaba. This means that at that moment, the sun shone. Spanish speakers would not say this in the past tense because it is an event that happened unexpectedly.
For a person who is continuously doing something
Imperfect Spanish refers to all the forms of the Spanish verb that are not preterite.
Imperfect forms are used for mental actions, states, and other descriptions.
Imperfect Spanish is also called ‘Imperfetto’ in Italian and ‘Imparfait’ in French, and sometimes, these terms can be confusing because they refer to different tenses in those languages.
The rule of thumb is that you should only use imperfect when you’re talking about a continuous action or state that has gone on for some time and isn’t yet finished.
Yes, It is appropriate for describing the weather in simple sentences, such as Hace mucho calor (It’s scorching).
Spanish sentences are typically preterite, except emotions.
One way to know when you should be using the imperfect version of a word is if you are speaking about an action that has not been completed, as opposed to something that is finished.
When you are giving your opinion about something/someone
When it comes to using Spanish, there are many things you can do wrong that will make your grammar sound terrible.
However, there is a way of speaking that will help you appear as if you are a native speaker.
The most common mistake is using the preterite instead of the imperfect tenses.
You have to pay attention to context, verb types, and time frames for what you say to make sense.
The basic rule is that imperfect tenses must be used when giving an opinion about something or someone (ej: Juan es simpático).
As an exclamation, when you are trying to make things more natural
In English, the imperfect verb tense is used when the action or state of being is ongoing.
As a result, it can be difficult for English speakers to grasp and understand when they should use this form.
It’s much more effortless in Spanish because you have Imperfect Tenses that are just as long but are used differently than their English counterparts.
The most important thing to remember when using Imperfect Verb tenses in Spanish is that you should only use them for Habitual actions and describing a time rather than a single event in the past. For example, I was eating would translate into Yo estaba comiendo.
Frequently Asked Questions
Spanish has two past tenses, preterite and imperfect. The preterite is used for actions that have definite beginning and end points in time.
In general, imperfect Spanish is used for past events. In some cases, it may be used for present-tense events that are not expected to continue indefinitely.