Lesson Topics

Preterite vs Imperfect: Part III

Notes:

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

You have already learned that the preterite and the imperfect are used in different situations. The preterite is used for actions that are viewed as completed, while the imperfect is used for actions that did not have a definite beginning or a definite end.

Estudié dos horas.

I studied two hours.
(completed action)

Yo estudiaba antes de los exámenes.

I used to study before the tests.
(no definite beginning or end)



Some verbs actually change meaning, depending upon whether they are used in the preterite or the imperfect. This is not surprising, since the difference in meaning can be traced back to the different way in which these two past tenses are used.

conocer

Conocí a Juan hace cinco años.

I met Juan five years ago.
(completed action)

En aquella época conocíamos muy bien la ciudad.

At that time we knew the city very well.
(no definite beginning or end)

querer

María quiso comprar la casa.

Maria tried to buy the house.
(completed action)

Juan quería comprar la casa.

Juan wanted to buy the house.
(no definite beginning or end)

no querer

María no quiso comprar la casa.

Maria refused to buy the house.
(completed action)

Juan no quería comprar la casa.

Juan did not want to buy the house.
(no definite beginning or end)

saber

María lo supo ayer.

Maria found out yesterday.
(completed action)

Juan sabía que María venía.

Juan knew that Maria was coming.
(no definite beginning or end)

poder

María pudo levantar la mesa.

Maria succeeded in lifting the table.
(completed action)

Juan podía participar en la manifestación.

Juan was able to participate in the demonstration.
(no definite beginning or end)

tener

María tuvo una carta de su mamá.

Maria received a letter from her mom.
(completed action)

Juan tenía un coche nuevo.

Juan used to have a new car.
(no definite beginning or end)

Items of Interest