Preterite or imperfect?

The imperfect tense is used when there isn't a definite beginning or end to an action in the past, and this action is repeated or continuous, eg siempre jugaba en el parque (I always played in the park).

The preterite tense tells us that the action took place at a specific point in time and is completed, eg ayer jugué en el parque (yesterday I played in the park).

The sentence veía la tele cuando llegó mi amigo (I was watching television when my friend arrived) is a good example of the difference between the two tenses. The imperfect is used to describe something that was happening at the time (veía la tele) and the preterite is used to talk about a single completed event (llegó mi amigo) that happened during the longer action.

Question

Complete the sentences with either the preterite or imperfect.

  1. Nosotros hicimos/hacíamos un viaje a Barcelona el mes pasado.
  2. Antes mi barrio tuvo/tenía más espacios verdes.
  3. La casa de mis abuelos fue/era grande.
  4. Durante mis vacaciones el año pasado, vi/veía muchos monumentos.
  5. Siempre fui/iba al colegio a pie.
  6. Mis padres vivieron/vivían en Londres.
  1. Nosotros hicimos un viaje a Barcelona el mes pasado (We made a journey to Barcelona last month). Here, the preterite is used to show a completed action in the past.
  2. Antes, mi barrio tenía más espacios verdes (Before, my area used to have more green spaces). Here, the imperfect is used to describe what something was like in the past.
  3. La casa de mis abuelos era grande (My grandparents' house was big). Here, the imperfect is used to describe what something was like in the past.
  4. Durante mis vacaciones el año pasado, vi muchos monumentos (During my holidays last year, I saw lots of monuments). Here, the preterite is used to show a completed action in the past.
  5. Siempre iba al colegio a pie (I always used to go to school on foot). Here, the imperfect is used to describe a repeated action in the past.
  6. Mis padres vivían en Londres (My parents used to live in London). Here, the imperfect is used to describe a continuous action in the past.
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