How to use and how to form pretérito indefinido and pretérito imperfecto


Although in Spanish there are several ways of using past tenses, the pretérito imperfecto and pretérito indefinido are the most common ones. But how do we use them? Generally speaking, we use pretérito when we talk about a completed action, while imperfecto is used when an action doesn't have a specific ending. Is it not clear yet? Ok, let's talk about this step by step.


Before talking about the indefinido's uses, it is important to learn how to form it. For that, there are several so-called regular verbs, that follow a rule (if they end in -ar the ending of the verb would be a specific one, and if they end in -er or -ir the ending would be different), and other verbs that you just must learn by heart.

Conjugation of regular verbs

Conjugation of irregular verbs

Uses of pretérito indefinido or pretérito perfecto simple

Well, now that we know how to form the indefinido, let's learn well when we should use it. We use indefinido when:

  • We talk about something that only happened once → Fuimos al centro comercial ayer (We went to the mall yesterday) Fuimos al centro comercial ayer)

  • We talk about something that happened more times than once but it has a specific end → Ayer fuimos al centro comercial seis veces (Yesterday we went to the mall six times) 
  • We indicate the beginning or the end of a process → La película empezó a las 8 (The movie started at 8:00 pm) 


With the imperfecto verb, it is also important to learn the conjugation first. As with the indefinido, there are some regular verbs, whose endings differ depending if the verb in infinitive ends in -ar, -er or -ir, and some irregular ones, that it is necessary to learn by heart. Let's have a look at the regular ones:

Conjugation of regular verbs

Conjugation of irregular verbs

Uses of pretérito imperfecto

Imperfecto is used when:

  • We talk about past habitual or repeated actions → Cada verano iba a la playa con mi familia (Every summer I used to go to the beach with my family) 

  • We want to describe something (a condition, mental state, state of being)→  Tenía frío (I was cold) 
  • We want to describe an action that happened over an unspecified time → Cuando Ana preparaba la comida,  Alba leía (When Ana was preparing dinner, Alba was reading) 
  • We want to indicate time or age in the past → Cuando era pequeño (When I was little) 

Have you understood how we conjugate indefinido and imperfecto? And what about their uses? Share your oppinions with us!

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