preterite / imperfect tenses

  • Artrella

    Banned
    BA
    Spanish-Argentina
    lostinspanish said:
    Hi folks! Are there any rules of thumb? Thanx

    Hi Lost,

    The preterite is a "perfect" tense because it reports events viewed as completed within a finite time frame. An "imperfect" tense conveys duration, progression, incompleteness:
    • Los indígenas no aceptaban a los europeos. Algunos nunca los aceptaron.
    The natives would not accept Europeans (for some time). Some (definitely) never did.
    • El sábado nevó todo el día. vs. El sábado nevaba y hacía frío. (as a general description)
    It snowed all day on Saturday (time frame) vs. It was snowing on Saturday, and it was cold.
    • El año pasado asistí a muchos conciertos. vs. El año pasado asistía mucho a conciertos.
    Last year I attended many concerts. vs. Last year I used to attend concerts a lot (often).

    When narrating, each tense has a distinct function:
    A. The imperfect gives background information and describes what was happening (duration).
    The preterite reports punctual actions and tells what happened (completion):
    • When I woke up, it was raining. (Act of waking up [once], raining in progress)
    Cuando me desperté, estaba lloviendo. o: Cuando me desperté, llovía.
    • Our friend was waiting when we arrived at the theater. (Act of arriving, waiting in progress)
    Nuestro amigo esperaba cuando llegamos al teatro.
    • He said (that) he was tired. (Act of reporting [complete] on an ongoing condition or plan)
    Dijo que estaba cansado. No les dije que planeaba estudiar en Maine.

    B. The imperfect describes a state or condition (duration).
    The preterite reports a change in condition (completion).
    • They didn't want to go but she insisted. (Their state of unwillingness vs. her act of assertiveness)
    No querían ir, pero ella insistió.
    • I was going to leave earlier, but I decided to wait for you.
    Iba a salir antes, pero decidí esperarte. (ongoing intention vs. a change of plans)
    • I was feeling cheerful; but, while watching the news, I got scared.
    Me sentía contento; pero, al ver las noticias, tuve miedo.

    http://www.bowdoin.edu/~eyepes/newgr/ats/32a35.htm#imppretcontr
     

    supercrom

    Banned
    Homo peruvianus, practising AE n' learning BE
    We usually use preterite tense when an action has ended, it is dead in time.
    Una vez estuve en el hospital, fue hace mucho tiempo.

    We use imperfect tense when an action was done more than once or it take some time (some times it is not ended in time).
    Corría y corría porque tenía que llegar temprano.

    CROM
     

    VenusEnvy

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    cromteaches said:
    Una vez estuve en el hospital, fue hace mucho tiempo.
    Sorry, Crom, but can you explain this construction? I have never seen "fue hace" together like this.
    I thought it was like, " . . . hizo mucho tiempo."
     

    Artrella

    Banned
    BA
    Spanish-Argentina
    VenusEnvy said:
    Sorry, Crom, but can you explain this construction? I have never seen "fue hace" together like this.
    I thought it was like, " . . . hizo mucho tiempo."
    Venus, this would be the same as "it was a long time ago".

    Estuve en el hospital, (eso) fue hace mucho tiempo.

    I was in hospital, it was a long time ago.



    I hope this helps you!
     

    VenusEnvy

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    Artrella said:
    Venus, this would be the same as "it was a long time ago".
    Does this mean the same thing, or is it different?
    Hace mucho tiempo que estuve en el hospital.

    Artrella said:
    Estuve en el hospital, (eso) fue hace mucho tiempo.
    I was in hospital, it was a long time ago.
    I understand now. I guess it just sounds redundant to use "fue" and "hace" to me. But, that's how it goes! Thanks, girlfriend!
     

    Artrella

    Banned
    BA
    Spanish-Argentina
    VenusEnvy said:
    Does this mean the same thing, or is it different?
    Hace mucho tiempo que estuve en el hospital.


    I understand now. I guess it just sounds redundant to use "fue" and "hace" to me. But, that's how it goes! Thanks, girlfriend!


    You're welcome Venusita!
     

    garryknight

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    VenusEnvy said:
    This page is an intro to the difference between the two tenses.
    But it contains an apparent error. One of the examples given is:
    Juan habló dos horas.
    Juan spoke two hours.
    But the latter is grammatically incorrect. We'd usually say "Juan spoke for two hours". And I would have translated it as "Juan habló por dos horas". Would some kind Spanish speaker please tell me if it's correct to translate it this way?

    Also, one use of the imperfect (imperfecto) tense, which is only briefly touched on in one of the pages VenusEnvy referred us to, is to talk about things which happened with some degree of regularity. Some examples:
    Para llegar al despacho yo andaba por la Calle Mayor. In order to get to the office I would walk along the High Street.
    Solía desayunar las tostadas. I used to eat toast for breakfast.
    Todos los días atraía mucho público. He drew a crowd every day.

     

    Rayines

    Senior Member
    Castellano/Argentina
    Pequeñas correcciones:

    But it contains an apparent error. One of the examples given is:
    Juan habló dos horas.
    Juan spoke two hours.
    But the latter is grammatically incorrect. We'd usually say "Juan spoke for two hours". And I would have translated it as "Juan habló por dos horas". Would some kind Spanish speaker please tell me if it's correct to translate it this way? Yes, it's correct, it could be also: "Juan habló durante dos horas", or, more colloquially: "Juan habló dos horas seguidas.

    Also, one use of the imperfect (imperfecto) tense, which is only briefly touched on in one of the pages VenusEnvy referred us to, is to talk about things which happened with some degree of regularity. Some examples:
    Para llegar al despacho yo andaba (andaba...hmm...) tomaba/caminaba por la Calle Mayor. In order to get to the office I would walk along the High Street.
    Solía desayunar las tostadas. I used to eat toast for breakfast.
    Todos los días atraía mucho público. He drew a crowd every day.


    __________________
    Garry
     

    garryknight

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Rayines said:
    (andaba...hmm...) tomaba/caminaba por
    Gracias por tu ayuda. ¿Hay algúna razón especial por qué usas tomaba o caminaba por en vez de andaba para decir ir a pie? ¿Es cuestión de preferencia personal o es que andaba no se usa mucho en español?
     

    Rayines

    Senior Member
    Castellano/Argentina
    ¿Hay algúna razón especial por qué usas tomaba o caminaba por en vez de andaba para decir ir a pie?
    Hola: No, es que "andaba", por lo menos en Argentina, tiene una connotación un tanto más indefinida, es casi como decir "vagaba" (pero no tanto). Ejemplitos: "Andaba cerca y pasé a saludarte". "Andaba tan rápido que era imposible seguirlo". Pero en el otro ejemplo, que implica una cierta dirección, prefiero "tomar" o "caminar por" esa calle. :thumbsup:
     
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