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This lesson is part of the Pre-Intermediate Spanish Course
(69 Spanish video or mp3 lessons. 4 hrs 41 mins)

Pre Intermediate Spanish Course

Pre-Intermediate Spanish Lesson 55: Pretérito Indefinido vs Pretérito Imperfecto

In this Spanish lesson we will compare the Pretérito Indefinido and Pretérito Imperfecto Spanish grammar tenses. Both of these Spanish grammar tenses are used to talk about the past, but they are quite different and it is vital to be absolutely clear on when you should one or the other. The Spanish equivalant of the Past Simple has two distinct grammar tenses, Pretérito Indefinido and Pretérito Imperfecto, which are used for different descriptions in the past and their verbs are conjugated in different ways. In English the Past Simple grammar tense is much more straightforward as there is only one Past Simple and the majority of its verbs are conjugated simply with the addition of -ed (for example: “Last year I worked-ed as a chef”). In this course we have already looked in great detail at how to construct and use both the Pretérito Indefinido and Pretérito Imperfecto Spanish grammar tenses and now here in this Spanish lesson we will compare the differences between the two tenses to hopefully give you a clearer idea of when to use one or the other. Try not to get flustered by all of these grammar terms: Pretérito Indefinido, Pretérito Perfecto, Pretérito Imperfecto, etc. For many students the titles and terminology unfortunately make things sound more complicated than they actually are. When you strip Spanish grammar back to its basics and concentrate on the bare bones of each of the Spanish tenses they really are not so bad. Always try to concentrate on being totally clear on when you should use one of the Spanish tenses over another and how you should conjugate the verbs in that tense for all the persons.

Lesson notes:

Uses of Pretérito Imperfecto…
For habitual actions in the past:
Cuando éramos pequeños estudiábamos en ese colegio: When we were little we studied in that school
For descriptions of the past:
Mi profesor era simpático e inteligente: My teacher was friendly and intelligent
For actions happening in the past:
Mientras todos hablaban, Juan miraba por la ventana: While everyone was talking, Juan was looking out the window.

Uses of Pretérito Indefinido…
Specific unique or repeated actions:
¿Qué hicisteis en Semana Santa?: What did you do at Easter?
Fuimos a París, ¿y vosotros?: We went to Paris, and you?

Pretérito Imperfecto and Pretérito Indefinido in the same sentence…
Pretérito Indefinido: This expresses the main action
Pretérito imperfecto: This describes the reason or circumstances in which the main action happens.
For example: Cuando tenía 18 años comenzó a estudiar en la univesidad: When he was 18, he started to study at university.

Activity:

Complete the gaps using Pretérito Imperfecto or Pretérito Indefinido…

No me …………… (yo/comprar) los zapatos porque ………….. (ser) muy caros.
Ayer, Ana …………. (comerse) el chocolate que ………….(haber) en el armario.
La casa que Jorge y Carla …………(comprar) no …………..(tener) jardín.
Ayer …………..(yo/ llamar) a Pedro, pero no (estar) …………. en casa.
El hospital donde …………..(yo/operarse)…………….(estar) cerca de mi casa.

Here are the answers to the last activity:

La semana pasada visitamos París.
Hemos visitado París dos veces.
¿Viste el Buckingham Palace cuando fuiste a londres?
¿Has visto el Buckingham Palace?
Anoche comí pollo.
Hoy he comido un sandwich.

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