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The imperfect tense is one of the two simple past tenses; the other simple past tense is the preterit. The imperfect states what was happening or was not happening at some moment in the past. The imperfect always views the the action or state as ongoing, and never as a completed event.

The imperfect tense has 5 distinct forms that agree with the subect in person and in number. The five forms consist of the verb stem plus one of 5 distinct suffixes.

Imperfect suffixes
 Verb Class
NumberPersonSubject Pronouns-ar-er-ir
Secondtú (vos: see Note)-abas-ías-ías
Thirdél, ella, ello, usted-aba-ía-ía
PluralFirstnosotros, nosotras-ábamos-íamos-íamos
Secondvosotros, vosotras-abais-íais-íais
Thirdellos, ellas, ustedes-aban-ían-ían

Note: In general, vos verb forms are identical to verb forms in the imperfect.

Here are examples of regular imperfect verbs for each verb class.

Imperfect example verbs
 Verb Class
NumberPersonSubject Pronounshabl-com-viv-stem
Secondtú (vos: see Note)hablabascomíasvivías
Thirdél, ella, ello, ustedhablabacomíavivía
PluralFirstnosotros, nosotrashablábamoscomíamosvivíamos
Secondvosotros, vosotrashablábaiscomíaisvivíais
Thirdellos, ellas, ustedeshablabancomíanvivían

Notice that the first-person singular and third-person singular forms of the imperfect are always identical. When the subject of these two verb forms is not clear from the context, a speaker may clarify who or what the subject is by using a subject pronoun.

Irregular verbs

There are only 3 verbs that are irregular in the imperfect: ir, ser and ver. Their forms are:

Irregular imperfect verbs
NumberPersonSubject PronounsirserverVerb
Secondtú (vos: see Note)ibaserasveías
Thirdél, ella, ello, ustedibaeraveía
PluralFirstnosotros, nosotrasíbamoséramosveíamos
Secondvosotros, vosotrasibaiseraisveíais
Thirdellos, ellas, ustedesibaneranveían

See Also: