The fill in the blank read "Mi prima __________ Miss Universe." The interpretation read " My cousin was Miss Universe" I don't see why era should be considered incorrect. She was (past tense) implies that she no longer is, hence she used to be. I have seen many sentences like "Cuando era niña..." translated as when I WAS girl. As the sentence stands, either fue or era should be accepted. To be honest, I think era is a more accurate description.
The answer with "era" would also be correct, but in this instance, we are asking you to conjugate in a specific tense: the preterite/el pretérito indefinido, as it is saying in the hint:
Hint: Conjugate "ser" in Pretérito indefinido
This is why is you type "era" the system is marking it as incorrect.
Era is in the Imperfect tense "el pretérito imperfecto".
As for era being better suited for this type of sentence, it depends on the specific nuance. If you see this action as something more descriptive than anything else, yes, era is better. But you can also see this action as something in the past with an end in your mind, in which case, fue is better.
I hope this clarified it.
Saludos y felices fiestas.
I generally agree with your interpretation, though I suppose there is somewhat of an emphasis element. If the comment is like announcing a news flash, then I can see the use of fue, but if we are generally conveying information, era seems more appropriate.
It's true that era may be more commonly used in this sort of context, with this type of sentences but it all depends on the nuance and perception of that past action by the speaker. I always say that when we use the preterite (in this case, fue) we place ourselves (our mind) in the past at the "end" of that action, so we see it as something that has been completed. On the contrary, when we use the imperfect (in this case, era) we place ourselves in the past where we see that action in "progress" while it was happening, in a point where she was still being Miss Universe.
Your theory about the emphasis also makes sense because remember that when we are narrating a story we use the preterite in sentences within that story that are more important, that give action to that story, but we swap to the imperfect for actions that are simply creating an atmosphere in that story, to create a setting. The combination of these two tenses are ideal for a story because if we only use the preterite and use it constantly in a story sentence after sentence, the listener would be missing the descriptive aspect (where was all these things happening? where there lots of people around? was it raining..?) - and if we only use the descriptive imperfect, then there wouldn't be much action, just description.
I hope I'm making sense...
me too go with era
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