Spanish grammar

Describe in the past (Pretérito Imperfecto de Indicativo) 1

The Imperfect – Pretérito Imperfecto – is used to talk about the past in Spanish. In the majority of situations, when we use the imperfecto is not to give the main information but to give the context that surrounds the main information.

– El pasado fin de semana estuve tomando el sol en la playa, hacía mucho calor y brillaba el sol.
– Last weekend I was sunbathing on the beach, it was very warm and the sun shone.

The main information is that I was sunbathing on the beach and the secondary information, the context of the situation, is that the weather was warm and sunny.


To conjugate a regular verb in the imperfect you just need to drop the ending -ar, -er, or -ir from the infinitive form and add the endings.

Imperfecto Regular

Imperfecto Regular











There are only 3 irregular imperfect verbs forms, “ser” (to be), “ir” (to go) and “ver” (to see).

Imperfecto Irregular

Imperfecto Irregular












  • The main use of the imperfecto is for describing things, people, animals or situations in the past:
  1. Describe qualities, characteristics or attributes.
  2. Describe habitual actions in the past. It’s the equivalent of “used to…
  3. Describe specific situations in the past.



– Mi casa era pequeña y oscura.
– Mi house was small and dark.

– Mi padre era rubio y llevaba bigote.
– Mi father was blond and wore a moustache.


– Iba a la piscina todas las mañanas el año pasado.
– I used to go to swimming pool every morning last year.

– Cuando era joven podía tocarme los dedos de los pies con la mano.
– When I was young I could touch my toes with my fingers.


– Estaba en casa de mi novio y comimos una pizza.
– I was at my boyfriend’s house and we ate a pizza. 

  • We also use the imperfect for actions happening in the past that are not seen as completed (the past action did not have a definite beginning or end).

– Cuando estudiaba en la universidad, salía de fiesta todas las noches.
– When I studied in college, I went out partying every night.

– Hacía mucho frío y llovía a menudo.
– It was very cold and it rained often.

  • It’s used to tell the time and stating one’s age.

– Eran las 3 de la tarde cuando sonó el teléfono.
– It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon when the telephone rang.

– Tenía 25 años aquel verano.
– I was 25 that summer.

  • When we want to tell a story we can combine the imperfecto and the indefinido.

– Era de noche y la calle estaba vacía. Yo volvía a casa sola cuando que alguien me llamaba. Me di la vuelta y no vi a nadie. Estaba muy asustada, así que eché a correr.
– It was dark and the street was empty. I was coming back home when I heard someone calling my name. I turned around and I didn’t see anybody. I was very scared so I started running.

Timer markers used with the imperfecto:

antes                                   a veces                               a menudo
muchas veces                       de vez en cuando                frecuentemente
cada día/semana                   cada mes/año                      cada verano
todos los días                      todas las semanas                 en aquellos días
generalmente                      normalmente                      mucho
nunca                                  siempre                              de joven


Tener or Haber: solving a confusing verb pair (I) 2


All Spanish courses focus since early stages in the learning of language in how to distinguish the scary verb pair “ser” and “estar” translated in english by just one verb, “to be”, however some of other confusing pairs are often overlooked only because they are used less often.

That’s the case of verbs pairs like “pedir” and “preguntar” (to ask), “salir” y “dejar” (to leave), “tocar” y “jugar” (to play) or “haber” y “tener” (to have), which is the pair that we’ll be exploring in this post.

First of all, it’s worth mentioning that both, tener and haber are irregular.







  • The difference is very clear once I explain it here.

Tener” has the sense of ‘posses’ or ‘to hold’. For instance:

Tengo cuatro bolsos de Luis Vuitton.
-I have four Luis Vuitton bags. (In the sense of I own / posses four really expensive bags).

In contrast, “haber” is the auxiliar verb that goes with the past participle in the perfect tenses, like here:

He visto la última película de Nathalie Portman.
– I have seen Nathalie Portman last movie.

It’s easy up to this point?

  • However both verbs, tener and haber, can also be used with “queto express necessity and obligation.

Look at this examples:

Tengo que comprarme una mochila.
– I have to buy a backpack.

Hay que comprarse una mochila.
– It is necessary to buy a backpack.

In any case, you can check the differences between “hay que” and “tener que” with more detail in this post.


Bien or Bueno? Muy or Mucho? Erase any doubt! 9


This is a common question between the Spanish students and a great source of confusion so in this article you will learn to differentiate the two pair of terms and use them correctly.

The simple answer is that one is an adjective and the other is an adverb, but that doesn’t help much of you don’t have a clear understanding of the function of adjectives and adverbs themselves.


So, let’s make a quick explanation about these two concepts.

  • An adjective always modifies a noun, which means that an adjective talks about or is referred to a noun and therefore will accord always with the noun in genre and number. Look at the example:

– El perro mojado corre.
– The wet dog runs.

Here “mojado” is an adjective that talks about the noun, “perro“.

  • Whereas adverbs always modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb or phrase, which means that an adverb talks about or is referred to a verb or other adverb / adjective but not a noun.

– El perro mojado corre rápidamente.
– The  wet dog runs quickly.

In this example “rápidamente” is an adverb that talks about the verb, “corre“, and answers the question: “how the action (verb) is done?”.

It’s easy to see the difference between the adjectives and verbs with these kind of words: “mojado” is a participle and they work as adjectives, whereas the words that end in “-mente“, the equivalent of “-ly” in English, are adverbs and always talk about how the action is done.

Well, the problem arrives with the 2 pairs of words I presented you at the beginning of the post.


The previous answer is helpful but if you still have doubts about when to use bien or bueno, muy or mucho, keep reading this article and you won’t have any doubt left once you finish reading this article.


Bien is an adverb, so it will be referred to the verb, the action, of the sentence. So, as an adverb, the word “bien” won’t appear close to a noun but close to a verb and it will answer the question “How…?”. Look at the examples:

– No he dormido bien.
– I didn’t sleep well. (¿How did you sleep?)

– Desde que hago ejercicio estoy muy bien.
– Since I do exercise I am very well. (How are you?)

Bueno, on the other hand, is and adjective, so it will accord with the noun it goes with.

– La película buena.
– The good film.

– El libro bueno.
– The good book.

When “bueno” is used before the noun it becomes “buen” but only in the masculine.

– El libro bueno > El buen libro.

So basically bien is translated by well and bueno by good.

So far so good but… when to use “bien” or “bueno” with “ser” and “estar“?

I think that’s the most complicated part to understand but here is my attempt to make you finally understand this. “Ser” express a quality and “estar” a temporary thing or the result of something. Having this in mind, look at these examples:

– Yo estoy bien.
– I am well, fine, ok.

Yo soy bueno.
– I am a good person.


Yo estoy bueno.
– I am good looking. So careful with this if you don’t want to sound cocky 😀

Oh, and remember we never use “bien” with “ser” . So, “Esto es bien is wrong, you either say “Esto está bien“, which means that ‘this is right, correct or good’,  or “Esto es bueno”, meaning ‘This is good, beneficial’ depending on what you actually want to express.

  • MUY vs. MUCHO

This is the last pair of words that cause some headache to my students.

First thing: “muy” is an adverb and is referred to other adjectives and adverbs while  “mucho” an adjective referred to a noun.

Ese chico es muy alto.
– This guy is very tall.

–  Hay muchos libros encima de la mesa.
– There are a lot of books on the table.

 However, sometimes “mucho” works as an adverb and then you can find it referred to the verb / action.

– Estoy muy cansado porque he trabajado mucho.
– I’m very tired because I worked a lot.

As you see here, “mucho” is not talking about any noun but the verb “trabajar”.

So here is the rule:

– Muy + adjective

– Mi novio es muy listo.
– My boyfriend is very smart.

– Muy + adverb

– Hemos terminado el proyecto muy rapidamente.
– We have finished the project very quickly.

– Mucho + noun

– Tenemos mucho trabajo.
– We have a lot of work.

  • Verb + mucho

– Llueve mucho.
– It rains a lot.


If you liked this post, you might be interested in reading as well:
– “Ser bueno” and “estar bueno”: not the same thing?
“Ser” or “Estar”: the answer


Much of the above type and style of clarifications, grammar, and other tricky elements are now covered in Compass Spanish (a new course comprised of daily mini-lessons delivered straight to your inbox). If you struggle to find the time or have a busy schedule, try out a free week (no strings attached and no credit card required!).

Spill the Beans (1)

“Ser” or “Estar”: the answer 2

One of the most difficult things of learning Spanish is that there are two verbs that are the equivalent of the verb “to be”, these two verbs are “ser” and “estar“. The uses of these two verbs is quite a complex thing that could be the subject of a whole thesis and still there would be unexplained nuances left.

The good news is that I’m going to give you the answer. I’ll explain you what you need to know in order to have a very good understanding of how these two verbs are used.

  • First difference: condition vs. essence

Look at these sentences:

1. This apple is green, it hasn’t fall from the tree yet.

2. This apple is green and the other is red.

As you can see this two sentences have different meanings even though they use the same words. The first sentence talks about the condition of the apple, it’s green, it’s not ripe but when the time passes the apple will no longer be green but ripe. Whereas in sentence number two, the verb is talking about an essential characteristic of the apple, its color is green and this color won’t change with the time.

In Spanish we use estar” to express the condition, something that is variable or might change with time, whereas we use ser” with the essential characteristics.

1. Esta manzana está verde, aún no ha caído del árbol.

2. Esta manzana es verde y la otra es roja.

One thing you can do to know which verb you should use in Spanish is ask “how that thing is?” or “what something is?”. If you use the the first question then you need to use “estar“, if you use the second, then you need to use “ser“.

Poner ejemplos:

  • Second difference: express origin, location and “take place”

Look at these sentences:

– Pierce Brosnan is Irish.
Pierce Brosnan es irlandés.

– The Blarney Stone is in Ireland.
La piedra de Blarney está en Irlanda.

– The Leperchaun party is in the Irish forests.
La fiesta de los Leperchaun es en los bosques irlandeses.

The first sentence express origin, where someone or something comes from we use “ser“, to express location, where someone or something is placed / located we use “estar” and to express where something takes place we use “ser“.

  • Other differences and review


  • Identify.

Esto es un ordenador portátil.
– This is laptop.

  • To say the nationality or place of origin and the profession.

Mi novio es suizo y es médico.
– My boyfriend is swiss and is a doctor.

  • To talk about the essential characteristics of a thing, person or place.

Esta ciudad es muy grande, tiene una superficie de 1.500 km2.
– This city is very big, the surface is 1.500 Km2.

  • To say the time and a period of time.

Son las 4 de la mañana. ¡Déjame dormir!
– It’s 4 am. Let me sleep!

  • To talk about where a event takes place.

– La conferencia de antropología es en la Universidad de Durham.
– The anthropology lecture takes place is Durham University.


  • To locate things, places or people.

– La Torre Eiffel está en París.
– The Eiffel Tower is in Paris.

  • To talk about a physical state or a state of mind.

Mi jefe está muy gordo y su mujer está muy contenta.
– My boss is very fat and his wife is very happy.

  • Indicate the result of an action or process.

La comida que has preparado está muy sabrosa.
– The food you prepared is very tasty.

  • + gerondif: to express an action in course, developing.

Estoy estudiando español para mi examen.
– I’m studying Spanish for my exam.

  • Before “bien” and “mal”.

Estoy mal, me duele la cabeza. ¿Y tú cómo estás? Yo estoy bien.
– I feel bad, I have a headache. ¿And how are you? I am fine.

  • + de : to talk about a temporary job.

Estoy de cajera en un supermercado hasta que encuentre trabajo en un banco.
– I am working as a cashier in a supermarket until I find a job in a bank.

  • with 1st person of plural: situarnos en el tiempo to place us in the time

Estamos a lunes.
– It’s Monday.



Much of the above type and style of clarifications, grammar, and other tricky elements are now covered in Compass Spanish (a new course comprised of daily mini-lessons delivered straight to your inbox). If you struggle to find the time or have a busy schedule, try out a free week (no strings attached and no credit card required!).

Express habits in Spanish: “soler” (suelo / solía) 1

In Spanish we have the construction “soler + infinitive” to express the idea that something usually occurs, that someone does something as a customary practice or regularly in present time, or that someone used to do something in the past but not anymore.

This construction is equivalent to saying “used to” for the past or “usually” for the present. Look at these examples:

I need my beauty sleep so I usually sleep 9 hours.
Necesito un sueño reparador así que suelo dormir 9 horas.

My friend usually comes this way to go to work.
My amigo suele pasar por aquí para ir al trabajo.

It used to rain a lot here but now there’s a draught.
Solía llover mucho por aquí pero ahora hay sequía.

This is an unusual verb because it is only used in present indicative, imperfect indicative and present subjunctive. Here you have a box with the verb “soler” conjugated.