The imperfect continuous tense

The imperfect continuous is used to say what was happening or what you were doing at a particular time. For example:

  • Estaba escuchando música (I was listening to music).
  • Mi hermano estaba trabajando (My brother was working).

Like the present continuous tense, the imperfect continuous tense is composed of two parts:

  1. The correct form of the verb estar in the imperfect tense.
  2. The present participle (which is also called the gerund.
imperfect tense of estar

+ present participle/gerund (hablando, estudiando, escuchando música, etc.)

The gerund is the equivalent of the English verb form, which ends in -ing, eg jumping, singing, working. To form the present participle, remove the -ar, -er or -ir from the infinitive and add these endings:

-ar verbs → -ando

-er verbs → -iendo

-ir verbs → -iendo

A small number of verbs (including some stem-changing verbs) have irregular present participles, eg leer (to read) → leyendo (reading), dormir (to sleep) → durmiendo (sleeping).


Translate these sentences into English.

  1. Los niños estaban bailando en la fiesta de cumpleaños.
  2. La camarera estaba sirviendo la comida.
  3. ¿Qué estabas haciendo?
  4. Mi hermano y yo estábamos durmiendo cuando mis padres volvieron.
  5. El estudiante estaba leyendo el libro antes de la clase.
  1. The children were dancing at the birthday party.
  2. The waitress was serving the food.
  3. What were you doing?
  4. My brother and I were sleeping when my parents returned.
  5. The student was reading the book before the class.