¿Pretérito o imperfecto?
Cuando llegué a mi casa…
mi hermana jugaba con su ordenador (todavía)
mi hermana jugó con su ordenador (en ese momento)
Think of the preterite as a karate chop, chopping the background of the
Pret. Pret. Pret. Pret.
Hacía sol cuando (de repente) hubo un trueno enorme. Entré mi casa, miré
por la ventana y vi que llovía.
The preterite acts as a rupture, when the situation changes.
Events = preterite
Context = imperfect
Think of a story as a sandwich:
The imperfect is the details, the filling of the sandwich. With out the
filling the sandwich is still a sandwich – albeit a not very tasty sandwich.
However the bread, or the preterite, is essential. In a story or piece of
writing, the essentials are the events as they happen. What makes it
interesting – the details, the background information, don’t change the
events and aren’t essential.
You can also think of the preterite as a skeleton:
Not particularly pretty as it is. Until you add
the skin and clothes (imperfect). You must respect
the constraints of the story or article (the facts), but you can add
interest with the imperfect.
A final image:
Think of a BMW. When you buy it you get a very basic car – the preterite.
In its most basic form, you cannot remove any of the parts – it ceases to
be the same car. However, you can buy extras for the car (GPS, air
conditioning, plasma TV screens) – the imperfect. These make the BMW
more interesting and more comfortable, but they do not change the
Preterite = the facts, what happens, the constraints of what you are
Imperfect = the background, the context, what makes your writing more
You can also use the imperfect to say what you used to do in the past.