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Difference Between Preterit and Imperfect Tenses

There are various differences between the uses of the preterit and the uses of the imperfect tenses and all uses are in the past.

1.  When to use the Preterit Tense- The preterit tense is commonly used to express:

  • An action that starts and ends in the past
  • Actions that occur only one time
  • Conclusions

2.  When to use the Imperfect Tense- The imperfect is commonly used to express:

  • Habits or customs in the past
  • Describe people, animals, things, and with descriptive situations
  • To tell age, dates, days, names and hours
  • What had been happening - Usually expressed in Spanish,Hacía + time + que + imperfect.
  • Temporary condition of being
  • With nouns and the verb tener
  • Actions in progress (imperfect) that are interrupted by another action (in the preterit)- Usually expressed in Spanish, Cuando + preterit + imperfect or vice versa
  • To tell history or stories
  • Intention of the actions - Usually expressed in Spanish, Ir + a + infinitive, Querer + infinitive.