pretérito vs. imperfecto Estuve cansada la noche pasada. Estaba trabajando a las diz y media anoche. A las cuatro en punto no estaba en casa. Estaba en el gimnasio. I was tired last night. I was working at ten thirty last night. At four o'clock he was not at home. He was at the gym. Can anyone please let me know if these are correct and also why the preterite/imperfect is used in each instance? Really struggling with this.... :( Thank you for all the answers, it is helping a lot. So am I right in thinking the following... 1A) Estuve cansada la noche pasada = I was tired last night (but I'm not now). 1B) La noche pasada estaba cansada = last night I was tired (and I may still be tired). 2A) Estaba trabajando a las diez y media anoche = I was working at 10:30 last night (and I may still be working or then something happened/background info) 2B) Estuve trabajando hasta las diez y media anoche = I was working until 10:30 last night (I did not work after that). Am I correct in my thinking or not?
Nov 22, 2017 3:33 PM
Answers · 4
Hi, Becky. In Spanish we use past imperfect (aka copretérito) for many things, but these are the most relevant: • When an action is not bound to a specific time limit: “Los niños jugaban todo el tiempo”, “antes solía visitar a mi abuela”. • When two actions in the past occur simultaneously: “hacía frío cuando llegué”. • When an action is not real (it may express whish, possibility or doubt): “Pensé que no te gustaba esta música”, “Me lo podías haber dicho antes”. “Tuve un sueño y mi casa no era mi casa”. 1 "estuve cansada...". Estuve = an action that is finished, hence pretérito. 2 "estaba trabajando..." "estaba trabajando" means an action that has finished BUT that you are describing with a gerund, so the action is not contained in a specific span of time. It remains "open". Therefore, the imperfect is the right tense to use. 3. "A las cuatro en punto..." in this case, you are defining the action according to another (main) span of time: 4.00 o' clock. So, everything that happens in this example is at the background (so to speak) of the main action which is to be (yes, simply to be) at 4:00 o' clock. Imperfect must be used when two things in the past occur simultaneously for the one in the "background". I hope this helps. Do not hesitate to ask for more clarification. Best,
November 23, 2017
Hola Becky, He corregido y agregado algunas frases a tus ejemplos para que distingas entre descripciones y acciones terminadas: ESTABA cansada (it is a description) la noche pasada. Estaba trabajando a las diez y media anoche. ESTUVE TRABAJANDO HASTA LAS 11 (THIS IS A FINISHED ACTION) A las cuatro en punto no estaba en casa. Estaba en el gimnasio. ESTUVE HACIENDO EJERCICIO (AGAIN A FINISHED ACTION) Saludos!
November 22, 2017
Still haven’t found your answers?
Write down your questions and let the native speakers help you!