Spanish Verbs: Imperfect Tense

Unlike the preterite tense that indicates an action with a definite beginning and end, the imperfect is used to describe past actions that do not have a definite end. The imperfect tense describes past actions that have not yet been completed, set the scene in the past, or are habitual in nature. The imperfect tense describes what a person "used to" do or "was" doing.

-ar Verbs in the Imperfect

Conjugating -ar verbs in the imperfect is done by dropping the -ar ending and adding one of the following:

  • aba
  • abas
  • aba
  • ábamos
  • abais
  • aban

Read and listen to the conjugations of the -ar verb hablar (to speak) in the imperfect listed below, then repeat each one out loud.
I used to speak
yo hablaba
you used to speak (familiar)
tú hablabas
you used to speak (formal)
usted hablaba
he used to speak
él hablaba
we used to speak
nosotros hablábamos
you used to speak (familiar plural)
vosotros hablabais
you used to speak (formal plural)
ustedes hablaban
they used to speak
ellos hablaban

-er and -ir Verbs in the Imperfect

-er and -ir verbs are conjugated the same way in the imperfect. Simply drop the -er or -ir ending and replace it with one of the following:

  • ia
  • ias
  • ia
  • iamos
  • íais
  • ían

Read and listen to the conjugations of the -er verb comer and -ir verb vivir in the imperfect listed below, then repeat each one out loud.
I used to eat
yo comía
you used to eat (familiar)
tú comías
you used to eat (formal)
usted comía
he used to eat
él comía
we used to eat
nosotros comíamos
you used to eat (familiar plural)
vosotros comíais
you used to eat (formal plural)
ustedes comían
they used to eat
ellos comían


I used to live
yo vivía
you used to live (familiar)
tú vivías
you used to live (formal)
usted vivía
he used to live
él vivía
we used to live
nosotros vivíamos
you used to live (familiar plural)
vosotros vivíais
you used to live (formal plural)
ustedes vivían
they used to live
ellos vivían