Using El Preterito Imperfecto to describe a situation in the past

We use El Pretérito Imperfecto to describe situations in the past, i.e to explain what "was happening". Some of these situations are:

  • Talking about what the weather was like
  • Talking about who one was with
  • Describing qualities
  • Talking about age
  • To say what the time was
  • To describe a scenery

Read and listen to these examples:

En los años sesenta había muchos hippies.
In the sixties there were many hippies.

El hotel tenía muy buenas instalaciones.
The hotel had very good facilities.

En Madrid hacía sol y calor.
It was sunny and hot in Madrid.

El paisaje en el campo era muy bonito.
The landscape in the countryside was very beautiful.

Ella tenía el pelo rubio y rizado.
She had blond curly hair.

Los niños jugaban en los columpios.
The children were playing on the swings.

Eran las tres de la tarde.
It was three in the afternoon.

Luis estaba con su novia en el bar.
Luis was with his girlfriend at the bar.

See also El Pretérito Imperfecto

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Luis estaba con su novia en el bar.
Luis was with his girlfriend at the bar.


En los años sesenta había muchos hippies.
In the sixties there were many hippies.


Eran las tres de la tarde.
It was three in the afternoon.


El paisaje en el campo era muy bonito.
The landscape in the countryside was very beautiful.


Ella tenía el pelo rubio y rizado.
She had blond curly hair.


En Madrid hacía sol y calor.
It was sunny and hot in Madrid.


Los niños jugaban en los columpios.
The children were playing on the swings.


El hotel tenía muy buenas instalaciones.
The hotel had very good facilities.


Q&A

papi

Kwiziq community member

6 January 2019

1 reply

Time markers - imperfecto vs indefinido

I got this correct because it was explained to be "describing a situation", but I am struggling with this one. There is no time marker, so I struggle with this one. Actually, I look at "en punto" and think indefinido.  Help!   ;)

8El reloj ________ las seis en punto.The clock struck six o'clock.HINT: It is describing a situation.marcamarcómarcabaha marcado

Silvia

Kwiziq language super star

6 January 2019

6/01/19

¡Hola Papi!

"En punto" doesn't really trigger any tense in particular -it just specifies an accurate time, in this case 'six o'clock'. We need to use El Pretérito Imperfecto in this question because the hint states that it is describing a situation in the past, and this is the strongest reason why we have to. If the hint said that it is describing a specific moment in the past, then we would have to use El Pretérito Indefinido and therefore the nuance of the sentence would slightly change. 

To sum up, using either El Pretérito Imperfecto or El Pretérito Indefinido can be subjective at times WITHOUT time markers, depending on the intention of the speaker (description of a past situation without a specific time frame vs. description of a past situation at a specific time).

Thanks for your contribution.

Silvia 

Martin

Kwiziq community member

20 May 2018

1 reply

Ella tenía el pelo largo y rizado. She had blond curly hair.

Please fix this - it should be long curly hair or ... el pelo rubio y rizado

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

20 May 2018

20/05/18

Gracias Martin,

Fixed!

Getting that for you now.