Using Querer in El pretérito Indefinido vs El pretérito Imperfecto

We can use verb querer (to want) in El Pretérito Indefinido or El Pretérito Imperfecto but the meaning will be different.

Querer in affirmative sentences:

Daniel quiso sorprender a su novia con unas flores bonitas.
Daniel tried to surprise/had the intention of surprising his girlfriend with some pretty flowers.

Daniel quería sorprender a su novia con unas flores bonitas.
Daniel wanted to surprise his girlfriend with some pretty flowers.

See how in El Pretérito Imperfecto querer keeps its usual meaning (to want) but in El Pretérito Indefinido the nuance is "to try". 

Querer in negative sentences:

El niño no quiso terminarse el vaso de leche.
The boy refused to finish his glass of milk.

El niño no quería terminarse el vaso de leche.
The boy didn't want to finish his glass of milk.

See how the meaning changes from "want" to a stronger "refuse" when used in El Pretérito Indefinido.

Have a look at these other examples using both tenses:

Nosotros no quisimos ayudarle.
We refused to help him.

Mis hijas quisieron jugar con la video-consola sin mi permiso.
My daughters tried to play with the console-game without my permission.

María quiso advertirme del peligro.
María tried to warn me of the danger.

Mis padres querían salir temprano para evitar el tráfico.
My parents wanted to set off early to avoid traffic.

La mujer quería pagar en efectivo.
The lady wanted to pay in cash.

Ellos susurraban porque no querían despertar al bebé.
They were whispering because they didn't want to wake up the baby.

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Nosotros no quisimos ayudarle.
We refused to help him.


El niño no quería terminarse el vaso de leche.
The boy didn't want to finish his glass of milk.


La mujer quería pagar en efectivo.
The lady wanted to pay in cash.


El niño no quiso terminarse el vaso de leche.
The boy refused to finish his glass of milk.


Ellos susurraban porque no querían despertar al bebé.
They were whispering because they didn't want to wake up the baby.


Mis padres querían salir temprano para evitar el tráfico.
My parents wanted to set off early to avoid traffic.


Daniel quería sorprender a su novia con unas flores bonitas.
Daniel wanted to surprise his girlfriend with some pretty flowers.


María quiso advertirme del peligro.
María tried to warn me of the danger.


Daniel quiso sorprender a su novia con unas flores bonitas.
Daniel tried to surprise/had the intention of surprising his girlfriend with some pretty flowers.


Mis hijas quisieron jugar con la video-consola sin mi permiso.
My daughters tried to play with the console-game without my permission.


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