What follows is a quick review of the usage of the Preterit and Imperfect in Spanish. If
you don't think you need it and want to do the exercise now, click here .
The main difference between these two tenses is that the Preterit expresses the end or
completion the verb, whereas the Imperfect has no sense of completion. Sometimes,
the usage of one or the other is indifferent from a grammatical point of view; thus, we
can say Te veía desde la ventana, as well as Te vi desde la ventana. In both cases, the
action denoted by the verb "ver" is already completed (it's past); in the first
case, though, the speaker focuses (for whatever reason)on an action which is not
completed; in the second instance, the Preterit expresses a specific moment of the
completed past action. Of course, this is a simplified perspective on the traditional
problem of the Preterit-Imperfect, but it's offered here as a general review.
We can divide the usage of the Preterit and Imperfect in Spanish as follows:
1. Descriptions in the past:
2. Description of emotional or physical states:
demasiado cansado para correr hasta el autobús
3. Anticipated actions in the past:
Íbamos a alquilar aquel coche.
4. Habitual or recurrent actions in the past:
De pequeño jugaba con mis amigos al escondite.
5. In indirect discourse:
Me dijo que me quería.
6. To tell the time:
Eran las cinco de la tarde en la plaza de toros.
1. Completed actions or a series of actions in the past:
Alquilamos aquel coche durante una semana.
Llegué, vi, vencí.
2. An emotional or physical change:
No nos alegramos al ver la factura.
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