Imperfect conjugation

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Spanish Imperfect (Past) Tense

The Spanish imperfect tense is generally used for descriptions of past events or actions without a specific endpoint in time. Though there are several past tense options in Spanish, the imperfect is one of the two most commonly used past tenses in the language.

Just some tense that I used to know

If you’re like me, you learned the difference between imperfecto and pretérito perfecto in Spanish class and thought: emotions and sentences where I would use “used to.” ¡Fácil!

But there’s a lot more subtlety to using the imperfecto than that. Sure, it is easy to sail through activities where you’re asked to conjugate the imperfect, and you only have to memorize three irregular verbs! However, it’s very common for English speakers to default to the preterite when describing events in the past, rather than using both appropriately. The distinction isn’t made as clearly in English, so you’ll find yourself at a crossroads when describing the past: preterite or imperfect?

Forrest during winter

Naturally, we express the same types of events in English, so the trick is to start to separate the meanings expressed into two buckets. This guide will give lots of examples of the different types of situations that require the imperfect tense in Spanish. For hands-on practice using the imperfect, sign up for Lingvist’s online Spanish course.

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When to use the imperfect tense

The imperfect tense is one of the easiest tenses to conjugate; the difficulty lies in deciding when to use it or the Spanish preterite. The easiest question to ask yourself is whether the action has a definitive completion time or not. If it doesn’t, then use the imperfect. However, there are also a few other times that the imperfect is used.

Orchestra playing

1. Actions that were habitual or happened frequently in the past

“I used to…”

Tomabaclases de violín. I used to take violin classes.

“I would…”

Caminabapor el parque todos los días camino a casa. I would walk by the park every day on my way home.

While the imperfect tense has the meaning of “I used to” implicitly, it can also be made more explicit with the verb soler in the imperfect, which means that you usually tended to do something.

Solíatomar clases. I used to take classes.

Solíacaminar. I used to walk.

Man under snow

2. Feelings, emotions, mental actions, or physical sensations

“I was…”

Eramuy feliz en primaria. I was very happy in elementary school.

Cuando vivía en Alemania, pasaba mucho frío. When I lived in Germany, I was always very cold.

December calendar

3. Time and age

“It was…”

Erael primero de enero y estaba escribiendo mis propósitos de año nuevo. It was the first of January and I was making my New Year’s resolutions.

“I was…”

Teníadoce años de edad. I was twelve years old.

Girls having lunch

4. Two simultaneous events taking place at a non-specific point in the past

“While… was -ing, …was -ing.”

Mientrascenaba, llamaba a mi madre. While she was eating dinner, I was calling my mother.

Woman with umbrella

5. Attributes or general descriptions of the past

“…was -ing…”

Ella explotaba de orgullo. She was glowing with pride.

Estaballoviendo. It was raining.

La ciudad era más pequeña cuando era joven. The city was smaller when I was young.

In English, we often use “used to” to denote that an action was ongoing for an indeterminate amount of time or habitual. If you were to draw the following two sentences on a timeline, you would have difficulty pinpointing where the sentence using imperfect starts and ends, as the speaker does not specify the exact duration.

Construí [preterite] una casa el año pasado. I built a house last year (event is completed).

Construía [imperfect] casas. I used to build houses (habitual).

Construía [imperfect] una casa cuando mi teléfono se cayó [preterite] del techo. I was building a house when my phone fell off the roof (interrupted event).

Spanish Imperfect Past tense

Time-Marking Phrases

If you see or are tempted to use any of these phrases when talking about the past, especially in descriptive, non-specific contexts, it’s a tip-off that you should use the imperfect.

sometimesa veces, de vez en cuando
often/frequentlyfrecuentemente, a menudo
every daycada día, todos los días
every yearcada año

How to Form the Imperfect Tense

Spanish verbs come in three categories – -ar,-ir, and -er – and change (conjugate) according to who performed it and when the action occurred.

To conjugate a verb in the imperfect tense, remove the -ar/-er/-ir so that you’re left with the stem of the infinitive. Then, add the appropriate ending from the chart below, depending on who is performing the action.

1. caminar 2. camin- 3. (yo) caminaba

PersonVerbs ending in -arVerbs ending in -er and -ir
él, ella, usted-aba-ía
ellos, ellas, ustedes-aban-ían

Irregular Verbs in the Imperfect Tense

Luckily, there are only three irregular verbs in the imperfect tense.

Ser (to be ):

yo eranosotros éramos
erasvosotros erais
usted, él, ella eraustedes, ellos, ellas eran

Ver (to see):

yo veíanosotros veíamos
veíasvosotros veíais
usted, él, ella veíaustedes, ellos, ellas veían

Ir (to go):

yo ibanosotros íbamos
ibasvosotros ibais
usted, él, ella ibaustedes, ellos, ellas iban

Ready to make the imperfect tense more than something you used to be able to do? Use Lingvist’s online Spanish course regularly to keep your past tense game strong!

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The Spanish imperfect tense (el pretéritoimperfectoo copretérito) is used to describe past habitual actions or to talk about what someone was doing when they were interrupted by something else.

Regular Imperfect Forms

There are only two sets of endings for regular imperfect verbs in Spanish, one for -ar verbs and one for both -er and -ir verbs.

To conjugate a regular verb in the imperfect tense in Spanish, simply remove the infinitive ending (-ar, -er, or -ir) and add the imperfect ending that matches the subject.

Check out the table of regular imperfect endings below.

Regular Imperfect Verb Endings

él, ella, usted-aba-ía
ellos, ellas, ustedes-aban-ían

Irregular Imperfect Forms

There are only three verbs with irregular conjugations in the imperfect: ir, ser, and ver. Here they are!

Irregular Imperfect Conjugations

él, ella, usted
ellos, ellas, ustedes

Uses of the Imperfect Tense

In general, the imperfect is used to talk about past actions, conditions, or events that occurred habitually or repeatedly or that were in progress at a point in the past. It is also used to tell time, talk about dates, give a person's age, and describe characteristics, conditions, and feelings in the past. Read on for more about these uses of the imperfect.

1. Habitual or Repeated Actions

Habitual or repeated actions are those that were done over and over in the past. These are often things a person used to or would do.


Almorzábamosjuntos cada día.

We used to eat lunch together every day.

Todos los sábados las mujeresibande compras.

Every Saturday the ladies would go shopping.

2. Actions that Were in Progress in the Past

It's quite common to see the imperfect used to talk about something that was happening when something else occurred. It's also used for actions that continued in the past for an unspecified period of time.

When talking about a past action in progress that was interrupted, the action in progress is in the imperfect, while the interrupting action is in the preterite. For more on the differences between the preterite and the imperfect, check out this article!


Ibaa clase cuando sonó el teléfono.

I was going to class when the telephone rang.

Mi papácocinabacuando entré a casa.

My dad was cooking when I came in the house.

A veces ledolíanlas manos y las piernas.

Sometimes her hands and legs ached.

3. Times and Dates

The imperfect is used to talk about times and dates in the past.


Eranlas tres de la tarde.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon.

Erael 9 de mayo.

It was May 9th.

4. Age

The imperfect is commonly used to talk about age in the past.


La niñatenía4 años.

The little girl was 4 years old.

Los perrosteníandos años cuando los adopté.

The dogs were two years old when I adopted them.

5. Descriptions of Characteristics, Conditions, and Feelings

The imperfect is used to give descriptions in the past, especially those that set the scene in terms of the senses.


Mi profesoreraalto yteníael pelo ondulado.

My professor was tall and had wavy hair.

El campoerabello.

The countryside was beautiful.

Hacíacalor esa noche.

It was hot that night.

Me sentíafeliz con mi trabajo nuevo.

I was happy with my new job.

Queríamudarme a otro país.

I wanted to move to another country.


In Stage 1 we looked at verbs in the present tense.

For example:

Present tense
Ego Lucie nuntium do – I give a message to Lucy

We also looked at verbs in the past tense

For example:

Past tense (perfect)
Ego Lucie nuntium dedi – I gave a message to Lucy

This kind of past tense is called a perfect tense. It is used to describe an action in the past which is completed.

To describe a past action or state which is incomplete, we use an imperfect tense. This tense indicates an action which has gone on over a period time or has happened frequently. It is translated into English by ‘was/were’ + ‘-ing’ or ‘used to’.

For example:

Past tense (imperfect)
Ego Lucie nuntium dabam – I was giving a message to Lucy

Just as with the present and perfect tenses, we need to know the conjugation a verb belongs to in order to make an imperfect tense.


Latin verbs are divided into four groups, or conjugations.

In each conjugation, the verbs share the same endings:
An example of a first conjugation verb is: confirmo, confirmare, confirmavi, confirmatum (1) – to confirm.
An example of a second conjugation verb is: habeo, habere, habui, habitum (2) – to have
An example of a third conjugation verb is: duco, ducere, duxi, ductum (3) – to lead
An example of a fourth conjugation verb is: audio, audire, audivi, auditum (4) – to hear

The endings for the imperfect tense are similar to those of the present tense.

Present tense endings
-oI(first person singular)
-syou(second person singular)
-the/she/it(third person singular)
-muswe(first person plural)
-tisyou(second person plural)
-ntthey(third person plural)

The difference is that they are preceded by ‘ba-’ and, in the first person singular, the characteristic ‘-o’ of the present changes to ‘-m’ in the imperfect.

For example:

Imperfect tense endings
-basyou (singular)
-batisyou (plural)

To form the imperfect tense, remove ‘-re’ from the infinitive form of the verb and add the relevant ending above. However, if the verb is in the fourth conjugation, you will need to add an ‘-e’ before adding the relevant ending.

For example:

Imperfect tense of do, dare, dedi, datum (1) to give

dabamI was giving, I used to give
dabasyou were giving, you used to give
dabathe/she/it was giving, he/she/it used to give
dabamuswe were giving, we used to give
dabatisyou were giving, you used to give
dabantthey were giving, they used to give

Imperfect tense of audio, audire, audivi, auditum (4) to hear

audiebamI was hearing, I used to hear
audiebasyou were hearing, you used to hear
audiebathe/she/it was hearing, he/she/it used to hear
audiebamuswe were hearing, we used to hear
audiebatisyou were hearing, you used to hear
audibantthey were hearing, they used to hear

Handy hint

Two irregular verbs you will frequently come across are ‘esse’, ‘to be’, and ‘ire’, ‘to go’. It is well worth learning their imperfect forms.

The imperfect tense of sum, esse, fui, -, ‘to be’ is formed as follows:

eramI was
erasyou were
erathe/she/it was
eramuswe were
eratisyou were
erantthey were

The imperfect tense of eo, ire, ivi, itum ‘to go’ is formed as follows:

ibamI was going, I used to go
ibasyou were going, you used to go
ibathe/she/it was going, he/she/it used to go
ibamuswe were going, we used to go
ibatisyou were going, you used to go
ibantthey were going, they used to go


Are you confident with

  • the meaning of an imperfect tense?
  • the form of an imperfect tense?
  • the meaning of the irregular verbs ‘esse’ and ‘ire’ in the imperfect tense?
  • the form of the irregular verbs ‘esse’ and ‘ire’ in the imperfect tense?

What next?


Conjugation imperfect


Grammatical construct combining past tense with continuing aspect

For other uses, see Imperfect (disambiguation).

The imperfect (abbreviatedIMPERF) is a verb form that combines past tense (reference to a past time) and imperfective aspect (reference to a continuing or repeated event or state). It can have meanings similar to the English "was walking" or "used to walk." It contrasts with preterite forms, which refer to a single completed event in the past.

Traditionally, the imperfect of languages such as Latin and French is referred to as one of the tenses, although it actually encodes aspectual information in addition to tense (time reference). It may be more precisely called past imperfective.[1]

English has no general imperfective and expresses it in different ways. The term "imperfect" in English refers to forms much more commonly called past progressive or past continuous (e.g. "was doing" or "were doing"). These are combinations of past tense with specifically continuous or progressive aspect. In German, Imperfekt formerly referred to the simply conjugated past tense (to contrast with the Perfekt or compound past form), but the term Präteritum (preterite) is now preferred, since the form does not carry any implication of imperfective aspect.

"Imperfect" comes from the Latin imperfectus "unfinished",[2] because the imperfect expresses an ongoing, uncompleted action. The equivalent Ancient Greek term was paratatikós "prolonged".[3]

Indo-European languages[edit]


Imperfect meanings in English are expressed in different ways depending on whether the event is continuous or habitual.

For a continuous action (one that was in progress at a particular time in the past), the past progressive (past continuous) form is used, as in "I was eating"; "They were running fast." However certain verbs that express state rather than action do not mark the progressive aspect (see Uses of English verb forms § Progressive); in these cases the simple past tense is used instead: "He was hungry"; "We knew what to do next."

Habitual (repeated) action in the past can be marked by used to, as in "I used to eat a lot", or by the auxiliary verb would, as in "Back then, I would eat early and would walk to school." (The auxiliary would also has other uses, such as expressing conditional mood.)[4] However, in many cases the habitual nature of the action does not need to be explicitly marked on the verb, and the simple past is used: "We always ate dinner at six o'clock."

Italic languages[edit]


Conjugation of the imperfect indicative:



  • The imperfect is signified by the signs ba and ebā.
  • The imperfect forms of esse are used as auxiliary verbs in the pluperfect of the passive voice along with perfect passive participles.

Romance languages[edit]

In Romance languages, the imperfect is generally a past tense. Its uses include representing:

  • Repetition and continuity: an action that was happening, used to happen, or happened regularly in the past, as it was ongoing
  • A description of people, things, or conditions of the past
  • A time in the past
  • A relation between past happenings: a situation that was in progress in the past or a condition originated in a previous time, when another isolated and important event occurred (the first verb, indicating the status in progress or condition from the past using the imperfect, while the latter uses the preterite).
  • A physical or mental state or condition in progress in the past. Often used with verbs of being, emotion, capability, or conscience.

A common mistake of beginners learning a Romance language is putting too much emphasis on whether the time the action occurred is known. This generally does not affect how the imperfect is used. For example, the sentence "Someone ate all of my cookies." (when translated) is not a good candidate for the imperfect. Fundamentally, it is no different from the sentence "We ate all the cookies." Note this fails the repeatability requirement of the imperfect, as it is only known to have happened once. On the other hand, the sentence "I used to have fun in the 1960s." is a good candidate for the imperfect, even though its period is known. In short, knowing when an action occurred is not nearly as important as how long it occurred (or was and still is occurring).


To form the imperfect for French regular verbs, take the first person plural present tense, the "nous" (we) form, subtract the -ons suffix, and add the appropriate ending (the forms for être (to be), whose "nous" form does not end in -ons, are irregular; they start with ét- but have the same endings). Verbs that terminate in a stem of -cer and -ger undergo minor orthographic changes to preserve the phonetic sound or allophone. Verbs whose root terminates in the letter "i" maintain the letter despite the consecutiveness in the "nous" and "vous" forms.

It is used to express the ideas of habitual actions or states of being; physical and emotional descriptions: time, weather, age, feelings; actions or states of an unspecified duration; background information in conjunction with the passé composé; wishes or suggestions; conditions in "si" clauses; the expressions "être en train de" and "venir de" in the past.



Conjugation of the imperfect indicative:



  • Dropping the -re suffix and adding -vo, -vi, -va, -vamo, -vate, and -vano form verbs.
  • Although dire and opporre (as all the composite forms of verb porre and dire) may seem irregular, they are a part of a verb family that has stronger roots to Latin equivalents (lat. pōnere/pōnēbam and dīcere/dīcēbam). Other verbs include fare(infinitive)/faccio(present tense)/facevo(imperfect) (lat.facere/facio/faciēbam), bere/bevo/bevevo (bibere/bibo/bibēbam), trarre/traggo/traevo (trahere/traho/trahēbam), durre/duco/ducevo[obs.] (dūcere/dūco/dūcēbam) and all their composite forms..
  • There is another imperfect in Italian formed by combining the imperfect of the verb stare (stavo, stavi, stava, stavamo, stavate, stavano) with the gerund. For example, "parlavo" could be said as "stavo parlando". The difference is similar to the difference between "I eat" and "I am eating" in English. However, English does not make this distinction in the imperfect.


Conjugation of the imperfect indicative:

 cânta(re)crede(re)plăcea (plăcere)dormi(re)fi(re)


  • The imperfect is formed from the short infinitive form of the verbs (without the -re suffix) combined with the -am, -ai, -a, -am, -ați, and -au endings.
  • Short infinitives ending in „-a” (1st conjugation) don't double this letter: e.g. "pleca” in the first person singular is "plecam" and not "plecaam").
  • Short infinitives ending in "-i" take the pattern of those ending in "-e" (e.g. dormi becomes dormeam in 1st person imperfect), while short infinitives ending in "-î" take the pattern of those ending in "-a" (e.g. hotărî becomes hotăram in 1st person imperfect).
  • There is only one irregular verb in the imperfect: a fi, that is created from the radical era-, instead of fi-.


In Spanish, the imperfect can be called the imperfecto or the copretérito. Conjugation of the imperfect indicative:

  • There are only three irregular verbs in the imperfect: ir, ser, and ver. Historically, ir — unlike other Spanish "-ir verbs" — failed to drop the -b- of the Latin imperfect. The imperfect of ser is likewise a continuation of the Latin imperfect (of esse), with the same stem appearing in eres (thanks to pre-classical Latin rhotacism). The imperfect of ver (veía etc.) was historically considered regular in Old Spanish, where the infinitive veer provided the stem ve-, but that is no longer the case in standard Spanish. In formal language, pronouns "tú" and "vosotros" are replaced by "usted" and "ustedes" (sometimes abbreviated as Ud./Vd. and Uds./Vds.), with the verb conjugated in third person. American Spanish always replaces "vosotros" with "ustedes", switching the verb accordingly. The countries that show the kind of voseo in which "tú" is replaced by "vos" use the same forms as for "tú" in this tense.
  • The first person singular and third person singular forms are the same for all verbs; thus, in cases of ambiguity where context is insufficient, a pronoun or subject noun is included for the sake of clarification.


In Portuguese, the imperfect indicative, called "pretérito imperfeito", is quite similar to Spanish:


There are four irregular verbs: "pôr" (to put), "ser" (to be), "ter" (to have) and "vir" (to come). Unlike in Spanish, the verbs "ver" (to see) and "ir" (to go) are regular in the Portuguese imperfect.

Like in Italian, it is also commonly formed by combining the imperfect of the verb estar (estava, estavas, estava, estávamos, estáveis, estavam) with the gerund (for example, "falando", the gerund form of "falar", to speak, to talk). In Brazilian Portuguese, both in informal oral speech and informal written language (for example, online or phone texting), it is more common to use the composite "estava falando" (commonly reduced to "tava falando"), than to use the synthetic "falava", which is more common in formal written forms.

Both in European and Brazilian Portuguese, the synthetic pluperfect ("eu falara" "I had spoken") is considered old-fashioned and never used in spoken communication - it is substituted by the composite "eu tinha falado", which is formed with the imperfect form of the verb "ter" (to have) (tinha tinhas tinha tínhamos tínheis tinham) plus the past participle ("falado").


Similar to the closely related Portuguese, as well as to Spanish, but often called "copretérito" (from co-, same particle found in English "collaboration" and "coexistence", plus "pretérito", which is "past tense", in reference of it being a second past tense that exists along the regular one). Same as with them, in formal usage "ti" and "vós/vosoutros" change to "vostede" and "vostedes" and are followed by the third person. In verbs ended in -aer, -oer, -aír and -oír, the first and second person of the plural show the presence of a diaeresis.


Indo-Aryan languages[edit]


Hindi, an Indo-Aryan language, has indicative imperfect tense conjugation only for the verb होना (honā) [to be] and the rest of the verbs lack this conjugation. The indicative imperfect forms of होना (honā) comes from Sanskrit स्थित (stʰita) "standing, situated" which are derived from the PIE root *steh₂- (“to stand”).[5] The imperfect conjugation is derived from a participle form and hence its conjugations agree only with the number and gender of the grammatical person and not the pronoun itself. So, the grammatically singular pronouns (e.g., मैं ma͠i "I" and तू tū "you" etc.) are assigned the singular imperfect forms (i.e. था thā or थी thī) depending on the gender of the person or the noun they refer to, and the grammatically plural pronouns (e.g. हम ham "we" etc.) are assigned the plural imperfect forms (थे thē and थीं thīm̊). An exception to this is the pronoun तुम (tum) which takes in the plural imperfect form (थे thē) in masculine gender but singular form (थी thī) in feminine gender.

These imperfect conjugations also act as copula to form the imperfect past forms for the three grammatical aspects that Hindi hasː Habitual, Perfective, and Progressive aspects.

Gender Singular Plural
Aspect Singular Plural Translation
(3rd person only)
1P 2P 3P 2P 1P 3P
Simple thāthēhe was
thīthīm̊she was
Habitualboltā thāboltē thēhe used to speak
boltī thīboltī thīm̊she used to speak
Progressivebol rahā thābol rahē thēhe was speaking
bol rahī thībol rahī thīm̊she was speaking
Noteː The 2P pronouns 'āp' & 'tum' although grammatically plural but are used as singular pronouns, akin to English pronoun 'you'.


In Assamese, two imperfect forms are recognisedː present progressive and/or present perfect & past progressive and/or remote past. There is only one periphrastic tense which functions as both the present progressive and present perfect with reference to the setting in which is placed.[citation needed]

1P 2P 3P
intimate familiar formal
Imperfective Present












Continuous Present

বুলি আছোঁ

buli asü͂

বুলি আছ

buli aso

বুলি আছা

buli asa

বুলি আছে

buli ase


বুলি আছিলোঁ

buli asilü͂

বুলি আছিলি

buli asili

বুলি আছিলা

buli asila

বুলি আছিলে

buli asile


বুলি থাকিম

buli thakim

বুলি থাকিবি

buli thakibi

বুলি থাকিবা

buli thakiba

বুলি থাকিব

buli thakibo

Indo-Iranian languages[edit]


Like all other past tenses, imperfect is conjugated regularly for all verbs. Formation: [preverb] + mi- + past stem + past ending. Conjugation of the imperfect indicative for the first person singular is shown in the table belowː

 raftan (to go)kâr kardan (to work)
1st sg.miraftamkâr mikardam

Slavic languages[edit]

Most Slavic languages have lost the imperfect but it is preserved in Bulgarian and Macedonian. It is also officially retained in Serbian and Croatian but is considered old-fashioned and restricted to literature for poetic and stylistic reasons.


Turkish has separate tenses for past continuous and imperfect. To form the past continuous tense for Turkish verbs, after removing the infinitive suffix (-mek or -mak), take the present continuous tense suffix "-yor" without personal suffixes, and add the ending for the simple past plus the appropriate personal suffix

  • As -du (which has a rounded back vowel) succeeds -lar (which has an unrounded back vowel), instead of -yor (which has a rounded back vowel) when the subject is the third person plural onlar, it becomes -dı (which has an unrounded back vowel).
  • If a verb ends in t, it may change into d (especially gitmek and etmek).
  • If a verb ends in open vowels (a or e), the open vowels become closed while adding -yor (because of the closed auxiliary vowel -i-).
    a becomes ı if the preceding vowel is unrounded, u if it is rounded (ağla -> ağlıyor, topla -> topluyor)
    e becomes i if the preceding vowel is unrounded, ü if it is rounded (bekle -> bekliyor, söyle -> söylüyor)
  • If the verb ends in a consonant, the auxiliary vowel -i- must be added before -yor. It becomes -ı-, -u- or -ü- depending on the frontness and roundedness of the preceding vowel, because of the vowel harmony:
    -i if the preceding vowel is e or i (front unrounded): gel -> geliyor
    if the preceding vowel is a or ı (back unrounded): bak -> bakıyor
    -u if the preceding vowel is o or u (back rounded): kork -> korkuyor
    if the preceding vowel is ö or ü (front rounded): gör -> görüyor
  • r of -yor may be dropped in colloquial speech.

To form the negative of the past continuous tense, the negation suffix "-ma/-me", which becomes -mi, -mı, -mu, or -mü because of the closed auxiliary vowel and the vowel harmony, must be added before -yor.


  • The epenthetic consonant y is inserted between -mu and -du.
  • As -mu and -du (which have a rounded back vowel) succeeds -lar (which has an unrounded back vowel) instead of -yor (which has a rounded back vowel) when the subject is the third person plural, onlar, they become -mı and -dı (which have an unrounded back vowel).

Semitic languages [edit]

Semitic languages, especially the ancient forms, do not make use of the imperfect (or perfect) tense with verbs. Instead, they use the imperfective and perfective aspects, respectively. Aspects are similar to tenses, but differ by requiring contextual comprehension to know whether the verb indicates a completed or non-completed action.

Dravidian languages [edit]


In Malayalam (verbs are never conjugated for grammatical person, which is indicated by a pronoun), there are two indicative imperfects, corresponding exactly with English:

1 -ഉകയായിരുന്നു (ukayāyirunnu) endings (... was...), for example:
ഓടുകയായിരുന്നു (ōṭukayāyirunnu) ... was running
2 -ഉമായിരുന്നു (umāyirunnu) endings (... used to ...), for example:
ഓടുമായിരുന്നു (ōṭumāyirunnu) ... used to run
  • To form the "was doing" imperfect, take the infinitive ending in ഉക (uka), for example ഓടുക (ōṭuka) - to run - and add the ending - യായിരുന്നു (yāyirunnu).
  • To form the "used to do" imperfect, take off the ക (ka) from the end of the "uka" form and add മായിരുന്നു (māyirunnu) in its stead.

To make a verb in the imperfect negative, add അല്ല് (all) after the ഉകയ (ukaya) part of the ending for the "was doing" imperfect. For example, ഓടുകയല്ലായിരുന്നു (ōṭukayallāyirunnu) (...was not running). To do the same for the "used to do" imperfect, take off the ഉമ (uma) from the ending and add അത്തില്ല (attilla) instead. For example, ഓടത്തില്ലായിരുന്നു (ōṭattillāyirunnu) (...didn't use to run)



The Imperfect Tense

The Imperfect Tense is one of two ways to talk about events that happened in the past in Spanish. The imperfect is used to:

  • describe repeated, habitual, or usual actions in the past
  • describe actions that were ongoing in the past
  • describe what things were like in the past
  • describe time and people's ages in the past

For example:

Usualmente él llegaba a la escuela temprano.
He usually arrived at school early.

Yo dibujaba mientras que ella pintaba.
I was drawing while she was painting.

La ciudad era vieja y sucia.
The city was old and dirty.

Isabel tenía ocho años.
Isabel was eight years old.

For more on when to use the Imperfect Tense, see Using the Imperfect and the Preterite. To learn how to conjugate in the imperfect tense, keep reading:

Regular Imperfect Tense Verbs

The imperfect happens to be one of the easiest tenses to conjugate in Spanish; to conjugate "-ar" verbs, take off the ending and add the following:

"-ar" endings:







This can lead to some rather funny sounding conjugations like trabajaba. Note that there's only one accent mark and it occurs in the nosotros form.

To conjugate "-er" and "-ir" verbs take off the endings and add the following:

"-er" / "-ir" endings:







Notice that there is an accented "i" in every conjugation.

Here are some examples:

Irregular Imperfect Tense Verbs

There are only three irregular imperfect conjugations in the entire Spanish language and they are ir, ser, and ver.


Ir means "to go," and its conjugations sort of look like a hybrid between "-ar" and "-er/-ir" endings:







Please notice that these are full conjugations, not just endings.


Ser means "to be," and it's conjugations are totally irregular:








Ver means "to see" or "to watch." At first glance it may not look irregular; it has the regular endings for verbs, but in this case we're only going to take of the "-r" rather than the "-er" before conjugating:








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