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Course Introduction

1. Nouns & Articles

2. Ser & Estar

3. Nouns & Adjectives

4. Regular Verbs

5. Ser/Estar (Past Tense)

6. Core Irregular Verbs (Present & Past)

7. Imperfect

8. Adverbs

9. Prepositions

10. Stem-changing Verbs - Part 1

11. Stem-changing Verbs - Part 2

12. Imperfect vs. Preterite

13. Syntax: Objects Overview

14. Past Participles & Present Perfect

15. Irregular and Go-verbs (Present)

16. Verbs with Irregular Yo-forms (Past)

17. Direct Object Pronouns

18. Indirect Object Pronouns, Direct & Indirect Object Pronouns Together

19. Reflexive Verbs

20. Verbs like Gustar

21. Present & Past Progressive

22. Past Perfect & Infinitive Constructions

23. Future Simple

24. Conditional

25. The Imperative

Episode #12

Preterite vs. Imperfect

I. Intro: Past time

Spanish expresses the past in two different ways depending on the nature of the action, state, or condition being described. The preterite tense tells us specifically when an action took place. If we use the preterite, we know that the action has a definite beginning and a clear end. The imperfect tells us in general when an action took place, telling time, age, or setting the scene for another action. It is also used to express emotional and physical states as well as characteristics of people, places, or things. The imperfect is less clear - the action does not have a definite beginning or a definite end.

But you already know all this! Let’s go a little deeper and learn some common expressions that trigger either the preterite or the imperfect, and see how these verb tenses can be used together.

II. Preterite: Moments in time

When an action, state, or condition is considered completely finished from the point of view of the person who’s speaking, we use the preterite. Some of the most common time expressions used with past actions to indicate when they began and when they ended at a specific point in time are:

Hace + (time)

La guerra empezó hace diez años.
The war started ten years ago.

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