Lesson Topics

Preterite vs Imperfect: Part II

Notes:

  1. The written lesson is below.
  2. Links to quizzes, tests, etc. are to the left.

Remember, Spanish has two past tenses: preterite and imperfect. Most verbs can be put into either tense, depending upon the meaning. The preterite tells us specifically when an action took place. The imperfect tells us in general when an action took place.



Some words and phrases indicate specific time frames, and therefore signal the use of the preterite.

ayer
(yesterday)
anteayer
(the day before yesterday)
anoche
(last night)
desde el primer momento
(from the first moment)
durante dos siglos
(for two centuries)
el otro día
(the other day)
en ese momento
(at that moment)
entonces
(then)
esta mañana
(this morning)
esta tarde
(this afternoon)
la semana pasada
(last week)
el mes pasado
(last month)
el año pasado
(last year)
hace dos días, años
(two days, years ago)
ayer por la mañana
(yesterday morning)
ayer por la tarde
(yesterday afternoon)


Other words and phrases indicate repetitive, vague or non-specific time frames, and therefore signal the use of the imperfect.

a menudo
(often)
a veces
(sometimes)
cada día
(every day)
cada semana
(every week)
cada mes
(every month)
cada año
(every year)
con frecuencia
(frequently)
de vez en cuando
(from time to time)
en aquella época
(at that time)
frecuentemente
(frequently)
generalmente
(usually)
muchas veces
(many times)
mucho
(a lot)
nunca
(never)
por un rato
(for awhile)
siempre
(always)
tantas veces
(so many times)
todas las semanas
(every week)
todos los días
(every day)
todo el tiempo
(all the time)
varias veces
(several times)


Some of these are more obvious than others. The sure-fire way to learn these is to practice, practice, practice!



Speaking of practice, one of the most effective methods of practicing is your verb flashcards. Let's add two more flashcards so that you can become very familiar with the most common expressions that can provide a hint as to whether to use preterite or imperfect:

Verb Flashcards
Complete List

Expressions that signal use of preterite

ayer
(yesterday)
la semana pasada
(last week)
anoche
(last night)
el mes pasado
(last month)
el otro día
(the other day)
el año pasado
(last year)
entonces
(then)
hace dos días, años
(two days, years ago)
esta mañana
(this morning)
ayer por la mañana
(yesterday morning)

Expressions that signal use of imperfect

a menudo
(often)
generalmente
(usually)
a veces
(sometimes)
muchas veces
(many times)
cada día
(every day)
siempre
(always)
cada año
(every year)
todo el tiempo
(all the time)
de vez en cuando
(from time to time)
varias veces
(several times)

Items of Interest