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Imprefect Irregular Verbs — Spanish Verb Conjugation

Bienvenidos. Like every other tense in Spanish, The imperfecto or “Back Verb” tense also has irregulars. The great thing is that there are only 3 irregulars making it the easiest to learn of any verb tense.


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Are you ready to see what they are? Here you go: they are “ir”, “ser”, and “ver”. Let’s take a look at see how each one is conjugated:

First is “ir” or “to go”.

I was going (Remember, this also means “I used to go” or “I went sometimes” or using another indefinite period of time.

(Yo) iba

 

We were going

(Nosotros) íbamos

Notice the accent over the “í".

Juan or María, You were going

(Tú) ibas

 

Now the Vosotros form which is
(tú plural – used only in Spain)

(Vosotros) ibais

He was going
She was going
and
Mrs. Mendoza, you were going

 

(Él) iba
(Ella) iba

(Ud.) iba

 

They were going
They (feminine) were going
All of were going

(Ellos) iban
(Ellas) iban

(Uds.) iban


Remember, this means “I was going”, “I used to go” or “I went sometimes” or “on Saturdays” and so forth. With all of these, there is not definite starting or ending point and they don’t last a specific period of time. Remember, verbs that would use a specific period of time like “yesterday” or “for 3 weeks” or “for 10 minutes” would be conjugated in the Spine or Preterite tense in Spanish.


Now, let’s look at the next irregular Back verb: It is “ser”. Remember, “ser” means “to be”. Remember, from Level I, with “ser” we describe permanent characteristics like “tall”, “smart” or “nice”. Remember also that when we use the “Back” verb or “imperfect” tense, that it is for an indefinite period of time. So, it works perfectly for phrases like, “She was nice”, “He was smart” and so forth – because they probably haven’t stopped being “nice” or “smart”, they still could be nice or smart. Let’s see how to conjugate “ser”. The conjugation doesn’t look like the verb “ser” at all.

Are you ready?

I was poor

(Yo) era pobre

 

We were tall

(Nosotros) éramos altos

Notice the accent over the “e".

María, you were rich

(Tú) eras rica

 

Now the Vosotros form used in Spain
“All of you (informal) were friendly

(Vosotros) erais amables)

He was funny
She was short
Dr. Jones, you were interesting

 

(Él) era chistoso
(Ella) era bajita

(Ud.) era interesante

 

They were strong
They (feminine) were good looking
All of you were short

(Ellos) eran fuertes
(Ellas) eran guapas

(Uds.) eran bajitos


Remember, “era” means “I was” for a non-specific period of time or “I used to be”.

Now let’s take a look at the last irregular back verb. “ver”. This is only slightly irregular. Normally, we would chop the “er” ending and add the new ending. However, with “ver” we only chop the “r” and add the ending. In other words, the only reason this verb is considered irregular, is because we leave the “e” instead of taking it off like we normally would.

Let’s take a look:

I was seeing

(Yo) veía

 

We were seeing

(Nosotros) veíamos

 

Juan or María, You were seeing

(Tú) veías

 

Now the Vosotros form which is
(tú plural – used only in Spain)

(Vosotros) veíais

He was seeing
She was seeing
and
You were seeing

(Él) veía
(Ella) veía

(Ud.) veía

 

They were seeing
They (feminine) were seeing
All of were seeing

(Ellos) veían
(Ellas) veían

(Uds.) veían


Remember, “veías” means “You were seeing”, “You used to see” or “You saw on Tuesdays” or “many times” or “often” or some other indefinite period of time.

Now let’s take a look at some important Usage Situations for “Back Verb” or (the imperfect tense). Even though it seems like you should use the “Spine” or “Preterite” tense for the following two situations, they are exceptions and you should use the “Back” or “Imperfect” tense.

First, when talking about age in the past, you always use the “back” or “imperfect” tense.

For example, the phrase, “When I was 12 years old” would be “Cuando tenía doce años”. “When they were 3 years old” would be “Cuando tenían tres años”.

Remember, with age, you always use “tener”. For example, “She is 16 years old” would be “Ella tiene dieciséis años”. …And “She was 16 years old” would be “Ella tenía dieciséis años”. It doesn’t really make sense in English to say “She has 16 years”, but that’s how they do it in Spanish.

Next, when telling time in the past, the “Back” or “Imperfect” tense should also be used, even though this doesn’t seem to follow the rules – since it is a specific period of time – it’s another exception.

For example, the phrase, “It was at one o’clock” would be, “Era a la una”. Remember, if we say any time besides one o’clock”, we have to make it plural with an “n”. For example, “It was at four o’clock” would be, “Eran a las cuatro”

Our final Usage Situation with Back verbs happens when talking about what life was like in the past. For example “When I was young…” which would be “Cuando era joven…” Or “When we were children, we used to read a lot” which would be “Cuando éramos niños, leíamos mucho.” Another example of this exceptions would be, “when I was 5 years old”, even though it seems to be for a specific period of time, it does set the background and has to be conjugated in the “Back” tense. To become really familiar with these irregulars and exceptions, I recommend going through this section more than once until they really start to sink in.

Review

I was going

iba

(Marta) You used to go

ibas

He went (sometimes)

iba

She was going

iba

(Sra. Benites) You used go

iba

We went (every week)

ibamos

They were going

iban

All of you used to go

iban

I was (young)

era

(Martín) You were

eras

He used to be

era

She was (happy)

era

(Sr. Mendes) You were

era

We used to be

eran

They were

eran

All of you were

era

I used to see

veía

(Juana) You saw

veías

He was seeing

veía

She used to see

veía

(Sra. Benites) You were seeing

veía

We used to see

veíamos

They saw

veían

All of you were seeing

veían

I was going

iba

We used to be

eramos

We saw

veíamos

(Rosa) You were going

ibas

(Raúl) You used to be

eras

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