Imperfect Tense


In this lesson you'll learn how to use the imperfect tense of Spanish verbs. The imperfect tense is another way of talking about events that happened in the past.

You'll also learn how to use the irregular verb decir, which means to say. More regular Spanish verbs are also included in this lesson.

Flashcards and a quiz are included at the end of the lesson to help you learn the concepts covered in this lesson.


Imperfect Tense

The imperfect tense is used in Spanish to indicate repeated actions that happened in the past, or an action that happened in the past for an indeterminate amount of time. Examples of the English equivalents of the imperfect tense are used to do and was doing.

The imperfect tense is also used when talking about the time in the past.

The following table shows the conjugation of the imperfect tense for the three classes of Spanish verbs.

hablar comer vivir
yo hablaba comía vivía
hablabas comías vivías
usted hablaba comía vivía
él, ella hablaba comía vivía
nosotros hablábamos comíamos vivíamos
vosotros hablabais comíais vivíais
ustedes hablaban comían vivían
ellos, ellas hablaban comían vivían


Yo tenía un gato. I used to have a cat.
Yo pasaba muchos horas allí. I used to spend many hours there.
Ella trabajaba. She was working.
¿Dónde estabas ayer? Where were you yesterday?
¿Qué tiempo hacía? What was the weather like?
Hacía frío y llovía. It was cold and it was raining.
¿Qué hora era? What time was it?
Eran las dos. It was 2 o'clock.


The verb decir means to say or to tell and is a very irregular. The following table show the conjugation of decir for the present and preterite tenses.

pronoun present preterite
yo digo dije I say/said
dices dijiste you say/said
usted dice dijo you say/said (polite singular)
él/ella dice dijo he/she/it says/said
nosotros decimos dijimos we say/said
vosotros decís dijisteis you say/said (familiar plural)
ustedes dicen dijeron you say/said (plural)
ellos, ellas dicen dijeron they say/said
Present Participle: diciendo

Past Participle: dicho


Él dijo la verdad. He told the truth.
Digo la verdad. I tell the truth.
¿Por qué dices eso? Why do you say that?
Eso es lo que ella dijo. That's what she said.
Les dije la respuesta. I told them the answer.


Here are some more very common Spanish verbs.

encontrar (ue) find
perder lose
recordar (ue) remember
olvidar forget
obtener (ie) get, obtain
recibir receive
tomar take
ocurrir happen
aprender learn
enseñar teach
dejar leave, let, allow
mirar look at
necesitar need
abrir open
cerrar (ie) shut


Hugo perdió sus llaves. Hugo lost his keys.
Lucía abre la puerta. Lucía opens the door.
Pablo cierra la ventana. Pablo closes the window.
¿Recuerdas su nombre? Do you remember his name?
Olvidé su nombre. I forgot his name.


Here are some flashcards to help you learn the imperfect tense of Spanish verbs.


Translate each of the following sentences using the imperfect tense.

I was working in the kitchen.

My father was writing a book.

My friend was eating an apple.

We were selling the flowers.

They were singing in the kitchen.


This quiz covers the imperfect tense of Spanish verbs. You can take the quiz as many times as you'd like. Each time the questions will be a bit different.