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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