the Imperfect Indicative

imperfect indicative

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:

Simple past: She paid $50 for the service. » Ela pagou $R50 pelo serviço.
Imperfect past: She used to pay $50 for the service. Now she pays much more. » Ela pagava $R50 pelo serviço. Agora ela paga bem mais.
Simple past: I went out last Thursday. » Eu saí na quinta-feira.
Imperfect past: I used to go out on Thursdays. » Eu saía nas quinta-feiras.

Here's how this looks with the meaning of, would (always):

Simple past: I went out last Thursday. » Eu saí na quinta-feira.
Imperfect past: I would go out on Thursdays. » Eu saía nas quinta-feiras.

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

I used to work at the Bank. » Eu trabalhava no banco.
Didn't you used to work there? » Você trabalhava lá não é?
She used to be very short. » Ela era bem baixo.

The Past Imperfect to express, would

I would always listen to music. » Eu sempre escutava música.
I would always sleep a lot. » Eu sempre dormia muito.
Did you always drive to school? » Você sempre dirigia á escola?

Let's do it to it with some more complex phrases...

When I was younger I would always drink a few beers before going out. » Quando eu era mais jovem eu sempre bebia umas cervejas antes de sair.
I used to eat at that restaurant but now it's bad. » Eu comia naquele restaurante antes, mas agora está ruim.

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...

From the post about saying "Once upon a time" » The Past Imperfect.