The narration of past events

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The narration of past events

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

Trabajaba hasta que mi marido me dijo que deberíamos viajar.

I was working until my husband said we should travel.

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.

I used to call my mother every day.

  • for descriptions in the past.

El hotel era muy antiguo.

The hotel was very old.

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

Llovía cuando llegué al aeropuerto.

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.

I bought a ticket for the concert.

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

Era pobre hasta que gané la lotería.

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.

The newspaper said the weather would be nice.

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

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