Describe your first airplane ride in Spanish.


Hicimos escala en Houston antes de seguir a Nueva York. We had a layover in Houston before continuing on to New York.
Mi madre me sujetó el cinturón de seguridad. My mother fastened my seat belt.
Volábamos por encima de las nubes. We flew above the clouds.
Me sorprendió la fuerza del avión cuando despegamos. The plane’s force surprised me when we took off.
La asistente de vuelo nos sirvió el almuerzo. The flight attendant served us lunch.
Podía ver todas las piscinas de las casas. I could see all of the houses’ pools.
El aliento del piloto olía a alcohol. The pilot’s breath smelled like alcohol.
Antes que nada abroché la cintura de seguridad. First of all I fastened my seat belt.
¿Llamaste a la agencia de viajes? Did you call the travel agency?
Sí, hice una reservación para salir mañana en la mañana. Yes, I made a reservation to depart tomorrow morning.



Preterite vs. Imperfect

For a non-native speaker, deciding which past tense to use in Spanish can be tricky. There are, however, some guidelines which will help you choose between the two.

1. The preterite is used to describe completed actions in the past:

Pasó una semana. A week went by.
Hablé con el director. I spoke with the director.
Hice mi tarea. I did my homework.

The imperfect, on the other hand, is used for ongoing past actions. These actions tend to be interrupted by another action. For example:

Caminaban por la calle cuando empezó a llover. They were walking down the street when it began to rain.
Juan se bañaba cuando llegaste. Juan was taking a shower when you arrived.

2. The imperfect is used to give background information which sets the stage for the principal action:

Era un día muy bonito, no hacía calor y había una brisa muy fresca. It was a very nice day, it wasn’t hot and there was a very fresh breeze.
Todos estábamos preocupados por el examen: Adolfo sudaba, Gabriel repasaba su tarea y Lupe no podía dejar de hablar. We were all nervous about the exam: Adolfo was sweating, Gabriel was reviewing his homework, and Lupe couldn’t stop talking.

3. Simultaneous actions are expressed with the imperfect:

Mientras pescaban, hablaban del partido de fútbol. While they were fishing they talked about the soccer game.

4. When you want to refer to repeated past actions in situations that would require “used to” or “would” in English (e.g. I used to smoke; we would always meet at the arcade) use the imperfect in Spanish.

Yo jugaba tenis cada fin de semana cuando era niño. I used to play tennis every weekend when I was a child.
Siempre hacíamos excursiones en bicicleta. We would always go for bike rides.

5A. Changes in one’s mental state or feelings are expressed with the preterite. This is often expressed with the reflexive form and corresponds to “become + adjective” in English:

Me enfermé del estómago. I became sick to my stomach.
Se enteró del error. He found out about the error.
Te enojaste con el árbitro. You got mad at the referee.

5B. If it is a verb which indicates a state of mind or feelings, rather than a change of state of mind, then use the imperfect:

Yo no me sentía bien. I didn’t feel well.
No sabíamos quien era. We didn’t know who it was.
Estaban muy enojados. They were very angry.

6. Meaning changes: There are some cases in which two distinct English verbs will be needed to express what can be conveyed by the use of the preterite and imperfect in Spanish. Remember that the preterite refers to the beginning or ending of an action and the imperfect refers to an ongoing condition. For example:

Conocí a Miguel en 1998. I met Miguel in 1998.
Yo conocía a Miguel en 2000. I knew Miguel in 2000.
Juan supo las noticias y se enojó. Juan found out about the news and he got mad.
Juan sabía las noticias y estaba enojado. Juan knew about the news and was angry.
Tuve que ir a la junta. I had to go to the meeting.
Tenía que ir a la junta. I was supposed to go to the meeting.

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