In Portuguese, there are several ways to refer to something that happened in the past, each with varying shades of meaning. Verb tenses! The Past Imperfect - officially called the Imperfect Indicative (o Pretérito Imperfeito), is used when talking about continuous or ongoing action in the past. Something that used to occur or, would always occur.
You'll be using this tense when telling a story. Once upon a time... SIM! What's the difference between this and the regular old "simple past" (the preterit indicative tense) and this one? When you use the simple past tense you're not telling a story. You're reporting a fact - one that ended in the timeline that you're describing.
Oh, man. This confused me for a long, long time. The Imperfect Indicative. The best way to get it by looking at examples. Let's see these two tenses side-by-side:
Here's how this looks with the meaning of, would (always):
Bom, these are the same thing ~ a mesma coisa! Used to X & would X (always, sometimes, once in a while etc) » THESE ARE THE SAME THINGS.
More examples of each meaning:
The Imperfect Indicative is advanced greatness!
The Past Imperfect to express, used to
The Past Imperfect to express, would
Let's do it to it with some more complex phrases...
You should learn the imperfect indicative conjugation only after you are comfortable with the preterit ("simple past") tense. It's the second most popular tense and you will hear it all the time, mainly when telling a story.
BTW*** You're probably using this tense already - when you conjugate estar into estava. That's because you're saying that something was happening when... Most students start using estava without even knowing it's the imperfect indicative 😉
-ar regular verbs
|I used to work||eu trabalh||ava|
|he used to work||ele trabalh||ava|
|we used to work||nós trabalh||ávamos|
|they used to work||eles trabalh||avam|
-er and -ir regular verbs
|I used to eat||eu com||ia|
|he used to eat||ele com||ia|
|we used to eat||nós com||íamos|
|they used to eat||eles com||iam|
This example uses namorar » namorava, (used to date/go out); ter que » tinha que (used to have to); dizer » dizia (used to say). These are extremely common and very useful 😉
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Here's an example of the Past Imperfect that uses some irregular verbs, SER, FAZER, and IR. *It's fast-talking so rewind to catch the dialog.
In this tense we have,
ser » era (used to/would be). Listen for, Quando era uma criança... » When I was (used to be) a child...
fazer » fazia (used to/would do). Listen for, A minha familia não fazia nada » My family would never do anything...
ir » ia (used to/would go). Listen for, Nós íamos no no McDonalds... » We would go to McDonalds...