The imperfect and the preterite

Over the years I can see that those two past tenses tend to give to GCSE Spanish students a bit of a headache. Also A-Level students can´t master this properly and often get confused therefore I have done this to clarify a bit this.

If you are not a Spanish GCSE or A-Level student doesn´t matter. It is a very important to understand those two past tenses in order to be able to understand and express yourself so, don´t jump this blog and read it.

The imperfect

Also called “El pretérito imperfecto” in Spanish a lot of times translates as (was, were, doing (as used to do)

This can be a bit confusing and for that reason I am going to state some examples and hopefully will become a bit clear.

Before showing you any example I am going to write down 3 different verbs. As you probably already know in Spanish there are 3 conjugations. We look at the infinitive form and the endings are (-AR -ER and -IR) If all this sounds a bit strange for you, don´t worry look at the following 3 verbs below:

ESTUDIAR      (As you can see “estudiar” – to study” finishes with -AR this means 1st conjugation)

COMER           (As you can see “comer” – to study” finishes with -ER this means 2nd conjugation)

CONDUCIR     (As you can see “conducir” – to drive” finishes with -IR this means 3rd conjugation)

Shall we conjugate those verbs?


Yo                                 estudiaba

Tú                                 estudiabas

Él, Ella/Usted                estudiaba

Nosotros                       estudiábamos

Vosotros                        estudiabais

Ellos, Ellas o ustedes    estudiaban


Yo                                  comía

Tú                                  comías

Él, Ella/Usted                comía

Nosotros                       comíamos

Vosotros                        comíais

Ellos, Ellas o ustedes    comían


Yo                                  conducía

Tú                                  conducías

Él, Ella/Usted                 conducía

Nosotros                        conducíamos

Vosotros                        conducíais

Ellos, Ellas o ustedes    conducían

I am now going to invite you to follow my following link you can see an excellent comparison and use of both Preterit and Imperfect with plenty examples.

It is also a good blog so you can practise your reading skills and understanding in Spanish. At the end of the day if you are reading this blog and you are studying Spanish you are likely to understand it.

If you need more help you can always learn more Spanish with School-e.