More Spanish Verb Tenses

Imperfect (el imperfecto)

The imperfect tense combines a past tense action with a continuous quality. It is used to talk about habitual actions, times and dates and age as well as to describe feelings, emotions and surroundings in the past. This verb tense does not exist in English and thus, is often confused with the preterite tense and vice versa. It can most easily be translated to “was + doing something” or “used to + do something” in English. The good news is, though, that the imperfect tense is one of the few tenses with no irregular verbs!

verb tenses verb tenses

JUGAR (to play)

Yo

jugaba

I was playing/used to play

Nosotros/as

jugábamos

we were playing/used to play

jugabas

you were playing/used to play

Vosotros/as

jugabais

you were playing/used to play (plural/Spain)

El/Ella/Ud.

jugaba

he/she was playing/used to play

Ellos/Ellas/Uds.

jugaban

they/you were playing/used to play (plural)

DORMIR (to sleep)

Yo

dormía

I was sleeping/used to sleep

Nosotros/as

dormíamos

we were sleeping/used to sleep

dormías

you were sleeping/used to sleep

Vosotros/as

dormíais

you were sleeping/used to sleep (plural, Spain)

El/Ella/Ud.

dormía

he/she was sleeping/used to sleep

Ellos/Ellas/Uds.

dormían

they/you were sleeping/used to sleep (plural)

*-er verbs are conjugated the same in the imperfect tense

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Conditional (el condicional)

The conditional is a common tense used, 1.) when talking about future time in the past, 2.) to increase the politeness of a request and, 3.) when using “if clauses” with the subjunctive.

Conditional Perfect (el condicional compuesto)

The Conditional Perfect is most commonly used when talking about hypothetical or unreal situations in the past. For example: I would have gone to the party. → Yo habría ido a la fiesta.

Past Perfect (el pluscuamperfecto)

The Past Perfect is used to indicate an action in the past that occurred before another action. This is a commonly spoken tense, especially when describing a story in the past. For example: I had already left when you arrived. → Ya me había ido cuando llegaste.

Preterite Perfect (el pretérito anterior)

The Preterite Perfect, like the Past Perfect, is also used to indicate an action in the past that occurred before another action. This tense is rarely spoken and mostly exists in written form.

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Future Perfect (el futuro compuesto)

The Future Perfect is used to talk about things that will have happened in future after a different event occurs. For example: I will have finished my exam by 4:00 pm. → Ya habré terminado el examen a las 4:00.

Imperfect Progressive (el imperfecto progresivo)

The Imperfect Progressive is used to talk about something that you were doing in the past which is often times interrupted by the an action in the Preterite Tense. For example: I was taking a shower when you called. → Me estaba duchando cuando llamaste.

Past Progressive (el pasado progresivo)

The Past Progressive is similar to the Imperfect Progressive in that it refers to an action that you were doing in the past. However, it stresses that the action was completed when interrupted by the next action. For example: I saw him when we were driving. → Lo vi cuando estuvimos manejando.

Future Progressive (el futuro progresivo)

The Future Progressive is used to express that an action will be occurring in the future. For example: If you need anything, I will be working on the computer in the other room. → Si necesitas algo, estaré trabajando en la computadora en el otro salon.

Conditional Progressive (el condicional progresivo)

The Conditional Progressive is used to express what would be happening at any moment in time and is oftentimes used with “if clauses.” For example: If I were in Spain, I would be drinking wine. → Si estuviera en España, estaría tomando vino.

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Subjunctive Mood (El Subjuntivo)

The subjunctive mood is used to express doubts, wishes, desires, demands, requests, suggestions, emotions and hypothetical situations. The subjunctive mood is most often used after specific clauses such as dudo que + subjunctive verb → I doubt that…

Present Subjunctive (el presente de subjuntivo)

The present subjunctive is the most commonly used form in the subjunctive mood and you will hear and need to use it daily. That being said, in English the subjunctive is not utilized in the same way, nor with as much frequency, as it is in Spanish. Therefore, learning not only the subjunctive conjugations but also its uses is difficult for Spanish learners. To form the present subjunctive, take the indicative present tense endings and switch the -ar and -er/-ir verb endings.

BAJAR (to go down/get down)

Yo

baje

Nosotros/as

bajemos

bajes

Vosotros/as

bajéis

El/Ella/Ud.

baje

Ellos/Ellas/Uds.

bajen

SUBIR (to go up/to climb)

Yo

suba

Nosotros/as

subamos

subas

Vosotros/as

subáis

El/Ella/Ud.

suba

Ellos/Ellas/Uds.

suban

*-er verbs are conjugated the same in the present subjunctive tense

Imperfect Subjunctive (el imperfecto de subjuntivo)

The Imperfect Subjunctive is used to refer to doubts about an action that took place in the past. There are several specific clauses that require the use of the Imperfect Subjunctive. For example: I didn’t believe he was so young. → No creía que fuera tan joven.

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Present Perfect Subjunctive (el presente perfecto de subjuntivo)

The Present Perfect Subjunctive follows the same rules of the other subjunctive tenses in terms of expressing doubt, however it is only used when the dependent clause of the sentence is in the past tense. For example: I doubt that they have left. → Dudo que hayan salido.

Past Perfect Subjunctive (el pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo)

The Past Perfect Subjunctive is used to talk about things that could/would have happened in the past. When the independent subjunctive clause is in the past tense then the dependent clause is always in the Past Perfect Subjunctive. For example: It seemed strange that they didn’t go to the party. → Me extrañó que no hubieran ido a la fiesta.

Imperative Mood (el imperativo)

In Spanish, there is a special way to conjugate verbs when asking someone or a group of people to do or not to do something. In essence, the Imperative Mood refers to giving commands or making requests.

Affirmative (afirmativo)

The Affirmative tense is used when you are asking someone or a group of people to do something. For example: Do your homework! → ¡Haga la tarea!

Negative (negativo)

The Negative tense is used when you are asking someone or a group of people not to do something. For example: Don’t climb the tree! → ¡No subas el árbol!

Now you are familiar with all of verb tenses you will need to master to become fluent in Spanish. Before you know it, you’ll be effortlessly conjugating verbs just like a native speaker!