The imperfect tense is one of the past tenses in Spanish, used to describe actions that were ongoing or habitual in the past. Understanding when and how to use the imperfect tense is crucial for expressing past actions and states with clarity. This post will guide you through the uses of the imperfect tense, its conjugation, and provide practice exercises to reinforce your learning.




Conjugation of the imperfect tense


To conjugate verbs in the imperfect tense, follow these general patterns for regular verbs:


 -AR Verbs

Verb: hablar (to talk)

Yo hablaba 

Tú hablabas 

Él/Ella/Usted hablaba

Nosotros hablábamos

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes hablaban


 -ER Verbs

Verb: comer (to eat) 

Yo comía

Tú comías

Él/Ella/Usted comía

Nosotros comíamos

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes comían


 -IR Verbs

Verb: vivir (to live)

Yo vivía

Tú vivías

Él/Ella/Usted vivía

Nosotros vivíamos

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes vivían


 Irregular verbs in the imperfect tense


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


Ir (to go)

Yo iba

Tú ibas

Él/Ella/Usted iba

Nosotros íbamos

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes iban


Ser (to be)

Yo era

Tú eras

Él/Ella/Usted era 

Nosotros éramos  

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes eran 


Ver (to see)

Yo veía

Tú veías 

Él/Ella/Usted veía

Nosotros veíamos

Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes veían 



When to use the imperfect tense


1. Ongoing Actions in the Past

   - Use the imperfect to describe actions that were happening at a specific point in the past but without a defined beginning or end.

   - Example: "Yo leía cuando sonó el teléfono." (I was reading when the phone rang.)


2. When two things are happening at the same time in the past


- Example: Yo hablaba con mi hermana mientras tu mirabas televisión. (I was talking with my sister while you were watching tv)


3. Habitual or Repeated Actions

   - Use the imperfect for actions that used to happen regularly or habitually.

   - Example: "Todos los veranos, íbamos a la playa." (Every summer, we used to go to the beach.)


4. Descriptions in the Past

   - Use the imperfect for descriptions of people, places, things, or conditions in the past.

   - Example: "La casa era grande y tenía un jardín hermoso." (The house was big and had a beautiful garden.)


5. Time and Age

   - Use the imperfect to indicate the time or someone’s age in the past.

   - Example: "Eran las tres de la tarde." (It was three in the afternoon.)

   - Example: "Cuando tenía diez años, vivía en España." (When I was ten years old, I lived in Spain.)


6. Mental and Emotional States

   - Use the imperfect for mental or emotional states and desires in the past.

   - Example: "Ella estaba muy triste después de la noticia." (She was very sad after the news.)



 Practice exercises


 Exercise 1: Conjugation Practice

Conjugate the following verbs in the imperfect tense.


1. (hablar): Yo _____, Tú _____, Él/Ella/Usted _____, Nosotros _____, Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes _____.


2. (comer): Yo _____, Tú _____, Él/Ella/Usted _____, Nosotros _____, Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes _____.


3. (vivir): Yo _____, Tú _____, Él/Ella/Usted _____, Nosotros _____, Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes _____.


4. (ir): Yo _____, Tú _____, Él/Ella/Usted _____, Nosotros _____, Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes _____.


5. (ser): Yo _____, Tú _____, Él/Ella/Usted _____, Nosotros _____, Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes _____.


6. (ver): Yo _____, Tú _____, Él/Ella/Usted _____, Nosotros _____, Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes _____.


 Exercise 2: Fill in the Blanks

Complete the sentences with the correct form of the verb in parentheses in the imperfect tense.


1. Cada noche, nosotros _____ (cenar) juntos en la cocina.

2. De niño, tú siempre _____ (jugar) en el parque con tus amigos.

3. Ellos _____ (ser) muy buenos amigos en la universidad.

4. Yo _____ (leer) un libro cuando mi hermano _____ (llegar) a casa.

5. ¿Tú _____ (ver) la televisión cuando te llamé ayer?



Use the exercises provided to test your knowledge and reinforce your understanding of the imperfect tense.