"When I was young, I would eat sugar": comía or comería?

PhilA0Kwiziq community member

"When I was young, I would eat sugar": comía or comería?

In English, we often express the imperfect tense (a past habitual action) using the modal "would":

When I was young, I would eat sugar.

I can't find examples of the Spanish equivalent:

Cuando era joven, comería azúcar.

But just using the Spanish imperfect seems like it might be wrong:

Cuando era joven, comía azúcar.

... seems to translate literally as "When I was young, I was eating sugar", which doesn't seem to clarify that it was a habitual action rather than a one-time thing.

So, how would you say "When I was young, I would eat sugar" in Spanish?

Asked 1 year ago
MarcosC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Both translations are correct for the imperfect in general, which can mean either something that is happening in the moment or a habitual action.

But what tips us off for this specific translation is the time clause, "cuando era joven", which suggests a long period of time, and so a habitual action.  So "Cuando era joven, comía azucar" does indeed mean "When I was young I would eat sugar."

There would have to be a different context to have the "in the moment" meaning of the imperfect.  Also this meaning is often used to set the stage for an interrupting action.  So you might see, "Comía azucar cuando llegó mi mamá".

Hope this helps.  Excellent questions by the way, both this one and the one on deber.

InmaKwiziq team member

Hola Phil

In Spanish we don't use the conditional as in the English "I would eat sugar" (when you are talking about what you "used to do" in the past". We still use the imperfect tense: "comía" which is used for actions in the past that happened repeatedly

That specific nuance you have in English using "would" doesn't have an equivalent in Spanish, other than the imperfect tense. 

Saludos

"When I was young, I would eat sugar": comía or comería?

In English, we often express the imperfect tense (a past habitual action) using the modal "would":

When I was young, I would eat sugar.

I can't find examples of the Spanish equivalent:

Cuando era joven, comería azúcar.

But just using the Spanish imperfect seems like it might be wrong:

Cuando era joven, comía azúcar.

... seems to translate literally as "When I was young, I was eating sugar", which doesn't seem to clarify that it was a habitual action rather than a one-time thing.

So, how would you say "When I was young, I would eat sugar" in Spanish?

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