When To Use The Imperfect [+14 Examples & Quiz]

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In this Spanish grammar lesson you will learn about when to use the imperfect.

In this lesson you will learn about:

  • when to use the imperfect in Spanish
  • how the imperfect is used in sentences in Spanish
  • how you can quiz yourself on when to use the imperfect
  • how you can practice with flashcards on when to use the imperfect
  • how and why you should use the courses of Language Atlas to learn Spanish

By the end of the lesson you will know all about when to use the imperfect!

Table of Contents

When to Use the Imperfect

You will use the imperfect tense to express habits or repeated actions in the past, as well as to describe a situation, setting or scenery in the past.

Here are examples where habits and repeated actions in the past are expressed:

soler

María solía visitarme todas las tardes.

Maria used to visit me every afternoon.

volver

Siempre que volvía a verle, sentía escalofríos.

Whenever I saw him again, I always felt shivers.

soler

solías pintar mucho cuando eras pequeña.

You used to paint a lot when you were little.

comer

Vosotros comíais demasiado cuando hacíamos paella.

You ate too much when we made paella.

trabajar

Nosotros trabajábamos sin descanso toda la semana.

We worked non-stop all week.

caminar

Ellos caminaban todas las mañanas diez kilómetros.

They walked ten kilometres every morning.

All of these are habits or repeated actions in the past.

Here are examples where a situation, setting or scenery in the past has been described:

haber

En mi ciudad había muchos cines, pero han cerrado casi todos.

In my city there were many cinemas, but almost all of them have closed.

tener

Mis padres tenían muchos perros cuando yo era pequeña.

My parents had a lot of dogs when I was little.

hacer

Recuerdo que en Bilbao siempre hacía mal tiempo.

I remember that the weather was always bad in Bilbao.

ser

Toda esta llanura era antes un bosque frondoso.

All this plain was once a lush forest.

tener

María tenía unas piernas muy bonitas.

Maria had beautiful legs.

jugar

Siempre jugábamos a las cartas después de comer.

We always played cards after lunch.

ser

Todavía era de noche cuando me desperté.

It was still dark when I woke up.

estar

Sonia estaba muy contenta en el trabajo.

Sonia was very happy at work.

These are all examples of instances where a situation, setting, or scenery has been described.

Generally you will talk about:

  • who was with
  • one’s age
  • one’s qualities
  • the time
  • the weather
  • a situation
  • a setting
  • a scenery

Example Sentences on When to Use the Imperfect

This section of the lesson on when to use the imperfect is about seeing it used in sentences.

This is valuable because you can improve your understanding of when to use the imperfect through examples.

soler

María solía visitarme todas las tardes.

Maria used to visit me every afternoon.

volver

Siempre que volvía a verle, sentía escalofríos.

Whenever I saw him again, I always felt shivers.

soler

solías pintar mucho cuando eras pequeña.

You used to paint a lot when you were little.

comer

Vosotros comíais demasiado cuando hacíamos paella.

You ate too much when we made paella.

trabajar

Nosotros trabajábamos sin descanso toda la semana.

We worked non-stop all week.

caminar

Ellos caminaban todas las mañanas diez kilómetros.

They walked ten kilometres every morning.

haber

En mi ciudad había muchos cines, pero han cerrado casi todos.

In my city there were many cinemas, but almost all of them have closed.

tener

Mis padres tenían muchos perros cuando yo era pequeña.

My parents had a lot of dogs when I was little.

hacer

Recuerdo que en Bilbao siempre hacía mal tiempo.

I remember that the weather was always bad in Bilbao.

ser

Toda esta llanura era antes un bosque frondoso.

All this plain was once a lush forest.

tener

María tenía unas piernas muy bonitas.

Maria had beautiful legs.

jugar

Siempre jugábamos a las cartas después de comer.

We always played cards after lunch.

ser

Todavía era de noche cuando me desperté.

It was still dark when I woke up.

estar

Sonia estaba muy contenta en el trabajo.

Sonia was very happy at work.

Quiz Yourself on When to use the Imperfect

At the end of every lesson you can do a small quiz.

You will see the sentences of the previous chapter.

You will either need to fill in the blanks, choose the correct multiple choice option, or both.

Once you are done the correct answer will be shown.

You can redo the quiz as many times as you want!

Fill in the Blank!María visitarme todas las tardes. [soler]

Maria used to visit me every afternoon.
Fill in the Blank!
Mis padres muchos perros cuando yo era pequeña. [tener]

My parents had a lot of dogs when I was little.
Fill in the Blank!
Toda esta llanura antes un bosque frondoso. [ser]

All this plain was once a lush forest.

The Courses of Language Atlas

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