You will use the Preterite



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Spanish III – Preterite vs Imperfect Review

You will use the Preterite:

You will use the Imperfect

  • When you "set a scene" describing what your house or dog used to look like and what your family was like. Think of looking at a photograph and describing the people in it and what they were doing. Since the photograph is static, the people in it can't start doing something different. So you can only describe the scene you see.



  • When you are describing what people were doing (in the process of doing) or used to do or when you describe what it was like when you arrived at school yesterday.


Era una noche oscura y tormentosa




Eran las nueve de la noche. Era viernes. Hacía mal tiempo. Llovía. Todos estábamos en casa. Mamá y Papá miraban la televisión; yo leía una novela de StarTrek; mi hermana hablaba por teléfono con su novio en su cuarto. Esnupi (nuestro perro) dormía detrás del sillón en la sala.

It was 9:00 at night. It was Friday. It was bad weather. It was raining. We were all at home. Mom and Dad were watching television; I was reading a StarTrek novel; my sister was talking on the phone with her boyfriend in her room. Snoopy (our dog) was sleeping behind the armchair in the living room

This story was written entirely in the imperfect. Every sentence describes the past.

Now, when you get to actions…..



De repente, ¡Entró un ladrón! Pasó por la escalera y caminó hasta la recámara de mis padres. Miró en el cuarto cuando oyó la voz de mi hermana. Se volvió y bajó las escaleras. Trató de huir de la casa, pero Esnupi se despertó y mordió la pierna del ladrón.

Suddenly, a robber entered! He went upstairs and walked down to my parent's bedroom. He looked in the room but then he heard my sister's voice. He turned and went down the stairs. He tried to flee the house, but Snoopy woke up and bit the robber's leg.


story from: http://www.drlemon.com/Grammar/pretvsimp.html
This is a series of actions in the Preterite which happened within the setting established by the Imperfect.

Translation differences



Comí una ensalada. I ate (and finished) a salad.

Comía una ensalada. I was eating a salad (when something happened), or I used to eat a salad.

Ella tuvo que hacer la tarea. She had to do (and did) her homework.

Ella tenía que hacer la tarea. She had to do her homework, but it is uncertain if she actually did it.

Ayer llovió a las tres de la tarde: It rained (briefly, then quit) at 3 pm yesterday.

Ayer llovía a las tres de la tarde: It was raining at 3 pm yesterday.

Yo fui a la casa de mi abuela. I went to my grandma’s house. It was an action that was completed.

Yo iba a la casa de mi abuela. I used to go to my grandma’s house. It was something I did repeatedly.

David habló por teléfono. David talked on the phone and the conversation ended.



David hablaba por teléfono cuando empezó la tormenta. David was talking on the phone when the storm began….an activity that was occurring “in the background”, but interrupted by another action.



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