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Preterite Imperfect vs Present Perfect

October 1, 2014
Spanish Verb Tenses

Italki Language Challenge

Italki Language Challenge

Lesson 1: Preterite Imperfect vs Present Perfect

For my Italki Language challenge my overall aim is to practice using different verb tenses so that I can speak with more fluency. At the moment, when speaking, I have to stop and think about what form of past tense I need to use in a given situation and then how to conjugate the verb in that tense. This slows me down no end and so I would really like to master some of the verb tenses, particularly the past tenses.

I’ve just had my first lesson with my Spanish tutor Andrés (on Italki) this morning and we worked on three tenses: the present perfect tense, and the two simple past tenses – the preterite and imperfect.

Here’s what we covered and what I learnt today.

Practising Preterite vs Imperfect Present Perfect

Ejercicio 1. Practicando el pretérito perfecto (practising the present perfect tense)

The present perfect refers to the recent past or to past actions that are still true. The verb is formed by using the present tense of the auxiliary verb haber + past participle of the verb.

Haber (present tense)

he , has, ha, hemos, habéis, han

+ past participle where the verb usually ends in ado or ido, however there are some irregular verb endings to learn. For example, hecho (done/made) and escrito (written).

Some examples:

he estudiado la lección (I have studied the lesson)

has comido la ensalada (you have eaten the salad)

ha dormido bien (he/she has slept well)

hemos escrito la carta (we have written the letter)

han hecho la tarea (they have done the homework)

Un día de Jan.

Hoy ha sido un buen día. Esta mañana me he despertado muy tarde, a las ocho menos cuarto.

Today has been a good day. This morning I woke up very late, at a quarter to eight.

Me he levantado y me he duchado; entonces he hecho un poco de trabajo en mi ordenador.

I got up and I showered, then I did a Little work on my computer.

Luego, he desayunado cereales y una taza de té. Entonces, me he lavado los dientes y he empezado a hablar con Andrés, mi profesor de Español por Skype.

Then, I had breakfast (breakfasted) on cereal and a cup of tea for breakfast. Then I brushed my teeth and I started to speak to Andrés, my Spanish teacher, on Skype.

Después he hecho un poco más de trabajo en el ordenador y a la una he hecho una pausa para almorzar.

Afterwards I did a Little more work at the computer and at one O’clock I had a break for lunch.

He almorzado en un restaurante tailandés con una amiga. A las dos he vuelto a la casa y he trabajado hasta las seis.

I had lunch in a Tai restaurant with a friend. At two O’clock I returned to the house and I worked until six.

He salido de la casa a las seis y cuatro y he tomado el tren para ir a Birmingham para visitar otra amiga, Ana.

I left the house at a quarter past six and I took the train to Birmingham to visit another friend, Ana.

Antes de llegar a la casa de Ana, he comprado comida en el supermercado.

Before arriving at Ana’s house I bought food in the supermarket.

Hemos cenado y hemos visto la televisión un rato. A las diez he salido de la casa de Ana y he vuelto de Leicester.

We had dinner and we watched the television for a while. At ten O’clock I left Ana’s house and returned to Leicester.

Antes de acostarme he leído un poco y a las once y medía me he acostado.

Before going to bed I read a little and at half past eleven I went to bed.

Ejercicio 2. Practicando el pretérito indefinido (practising the preterite tense)

The preterite refers to specific, completed past actions. The tense allows you to refer to specific past actions performed at a fixed point in time, a specific number of times, or during an enclosed span of time.

The verb tense is commonly used with the following words or phrases that indicate a specific time frame:

Esta mañana (this morning); esta tarde (this afternoon); ayer (yesterday); ayer por la mañana (yesterday morning); ayer por la tarde (yesterday afternoon); anoche (last night); el sábado pasado (last Saturday); la semana pasada (last week); el mes pasado (last month); el ano pasado (last year); hace dos días (two days ago); hace un mes (a month ago).

Desayunar

Desayunar

 

a) Ayer desayuné un café con leche y tostadas a las ocho y cuarto.

(Yesterday I breakfasted on a coffee with milk and toast at a quarter past eight).

b) Ayer fui al trabajo en autobús.

(Yesterday I went to work by bus).

c) Ayer salí de mi oficina a las ocho de la tarde.

(Yesterday I left my office at eight O’clock in the evening).

d) Ayer me acosté después de leer un poco.

(Yesterday I went to bed after reading a little).

Combining 2 tenses – preterite and imperfect

e) El teléfono sonó porque Andrés me llamaba. (The telephone rang because Andrés called me)

Some more examples of the preterite

f) La semana pasada tuve una reunión con mi jefe en la sala de reuniones. (Last week I had a meeting with my boss in the meeting room)

g) El pasado lunes entré a trabajar a las ocho de la mañana. (Last Monday I entered work at eight in the morning).

h) Anoche cené con un cliente en mi casa. (Last night I dinned with a client at my house).

i) Hace dos días hice la compra en el supermercado que está cerca de mi casa. (Two days ago I did the shopping at the supermarket which is near by house).

Hablar                                    Comer                                   Vivir

hablé                                           comí                                           viví     

hablaste                                     comiste                                      viviste

habló                                           comió                                         vivió

hablamos                                  comimos                                    vivimos

hablasteis                                  comisteis                                   vivisteis

hablaron                                   comieron                                   vivieron

Ejercicio 3. Practicando el pretérito Imperfecto (practising the imperfect tense)

The imperfect tense refers to nonspecific, continuous past actions. We use the imperfect tense when referring to actions that took place in the past, either repeatedly or over an extended period of time.

-ar verbs: e.g. comprar (to buy)

compraba, comprabas, compraba, comprábamos, comprabais, compraban

-er and –ir verbs: e.g. beber (to drink) and vivir (to live)

bebía, bebías, bebía, bebíamos, bebíais, bebían

vivía, vivías, vivía, vivíamos, vivíais, vivían

There are only three verbs with irregular conjugations in the imperfect:
  • Ser (to be): era, eras, era, éramos, erais, eran
  • Ir (to go): iba, ibas, iba, íbamos, ibais, iban
  • Ver (to see): veía, veías, veía, veíamos, veíais, veían.

En la Edad Media no había supermercados; no tenia teléfonos móviles; no conducía coches, no usaba ordenadores. (In the Middle Ages there wasn’t (any) supermarkets; they/one didn’t have mobile phones; they/one didn’t drive cars; they/one didn’t use computers.)

Cuando era pequeña, iba a la playa, viajaba en vacaciones, iba de excursión. (When I was small, I used to go to the beach, I used to travel on holiday, I used to go on excusions).

¿Qué hacías en la escuela? Yo estudiaba con mis compañeros de clase, jugaba con mis amigas en el patio, escribía muchas historias. Veía la televisión, por ejemplo veía dibujos animados de Disney. (What did you used to do at school? I used to study with my class mates, I used to play with my friends in the playground, I used to write lots of stories. I used watch the television, for example, I used to watch Disney cartoons).

You can also use the verb soler + infinitive to express the frequency of actions.

Solía, solías, solía, solíamos, solíais, solían

E.g. Yo jugaba en la escuela (using the imperfect)

Yo solía jugar en la escuela (using soler + infinitive)

¿Cuál era tu asignatura favorita en la escuela? Mi asignatura favorita en la escuela era el arte y el inglés. La asignatura que no me gustaba eran las matemáticas y tampoco ahora. (What was your favourite subject at school? My favourite subject at school was art and English. The subject that I didn’t like was maths and now as well).

Well, that was quite a lot to digest today! I now have a couple of days to review everything and practice what I’ve learnt before my next lesson.

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