The imperfect tense is used to talk about a past action or state of being without specifying when it began or ended. It is often equivalent to "was ___-ing" in English. The Spanish imperfect can also express repeated actions in the past – equivalent to "used to" in English.

¿Dónde estabas ayer?   Where were you yesterday?
Quería ir al cine.   I wanted to go to the movies.
Ella leía el periódico.   She was reading the newspaper.
¿Partíais?   Were you leaving?
No tenían tiempo de estudiar.   They didn’t have time to study.
¿Llovía anoche?   Did it rain last night?
Bailábamos todos los días.   We used to dance every day.

The imperfecto and pretérito are often confusing for Spanish students – learn the difference.

Imperfect conjugations

The imperfecto is relatively easy, because all regular and all but three irregular Spanish verbs are conjugated with the standard root (found by dropping the infinitive) plus the appropriate endings.

Hablar – to talk
yo hablaba   nosotros hablábamos
hablabas   vosotros hablabais

hablaba   ellos hablaban
Comer – to eat
yo comía   nosotros comíamos
comías   vosotros comíais
él comía   ellos comían
Vivir – to live
yo vivía   nosotros vivíamos
vivías   vosotros vivíais
él vivía   ellos vivían

Note that the yo and él forms are identical; if the context leaves ambiguity as to which person was doing the action, be sure to use the pronoun.

Ir, ser, and ver are the only irregular verbs in the imperfect.

Ir – to go
yo iba   nosotros íbamos
ibas   vosotros ibais

iba   ellos iban
Ser – to be
yo era   nosotros éramos
eras   vosotros erais
él era   ellos eran
Ver – to see
yo veía   nosotros veíamos
veías   vosotros veíais
él veía   ellos veían

Test: Imperfect

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