The narration of past events

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The narration of past events

For the narration of past events, we can use: the pretérito imperfecto (past progressive); the pretérito indefinido (simple past); or the condicional (conditional).

Creía creer, pret. imperf. que vendrías venir, condicional a cenar, pero finalmente no viniste venir, pret. indefinido

I thought that you would come for dinner, but in the end you didn't come.

We use the pretérito imperfecto (past progressive):

  • to talk about repeated actions (habits or routines) in an undefined past (we do not know when they end).

Llamaba a mi mamá todos los días llamar, pret. imperf..

I used to call my mother every day.

  • for descriptions in the past.

El hotel era muy antiguo ser, pret. imperf..

The hotel was very old.

  • to describe the circumstances surrounding an action in the past.

Llovía cuando llegué al aeropuerto llover, pret. imperf..

It was raining when I arrived at the airport.

We use the pretérito indefinido (simple past) to:

  • talk about a completed action at a precise moment or time in the past.

Compré un billete para el concierto comprar, pret. indefinido.

I bought a ticket for the concert.

  • describe an action which interrupts another ongoing action or state.

Era pobre hasta que gané la lotería ganar, pret. indefinido.

I was poor until I won the lottery. 

We use the conditional to:

  • talk about future from the perspective of the past.

El periódico decía que haría buen tiempo hacer, condicional.

The newspaper said the weather would be nice.

Note: this particular use of the conditional is mainly literary and is only seldom used in speech.


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