Preterite vs. Imperfect- Preterite~ Expresses past action that happened and ended quickly+ Juan leyó en la revista la noticia de su muerte. (Juan read in the magazine the news of his death)~ Used regardless of the length of time if it is viewed as a complete unit.+ Juan estuvo varios meses in la guerra. (Juan spent several months in the war.)~ Refers to the beginning or ending of an action+ Apenas llegamos a la fiesta, nos pusimos a bailar. (As soon as we arrived at the party, we began to dance.)+ La reunión terminó a las cinco. (The meeting ended at five.)~ When haber is used in the preterite it generally means happened or took place+ Hubo tres fiestas en esa cuadra anoche. (There were three parties on that block last night.)- Imperfect~ Past progressive (was, were + -ing)+ Hablábamos mientras ella escribía. (We were talking while she was writing.)~ Repeated or customary past actions (used to + verb)+ Íbamos a la playa con frecuencia. (We used to go to the beach often.)~ Describes and characterizes the past+ El cuarto estaba oscuro y silencioso. (The room was dark and quiet.)
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