Skip links
Published on: Grammar

How to Use the Ser Imperfect Conjugation in Spanish

It seems like all of the most common Spanish verbs are also the ones that are the most irregular. Unfortunately, this is true in almost every language, but today we’re going to be going over how to finally get the conjugations for the verb ser figured out. 

To unlock the mystery of this Spanish verb, we’ll be reviewing it in the present tense and then going over how to conjugate it in the imperfect tense. We’ll also look at a few Spanish grammar tips on how to use irregular verbs like this in the imperfect tense, so this article will be short, but sweet. 

So get ready because today we’re talking all about ser.

Conjugate Ser Present Tense

The first thing we should do is review the Ser conjugation in the present tense. Since it’s one of the most important verbs in Spanish, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a strong grasp of how to use it.

So in the present tense, this Spanish verb looks like this:

Spanish Personal Pronouns Verb Ser (to be)
Yo Soy
Tú  Eres
Él / Ella / Usted Es
Vos Sos
Nosotros Somos
Vosotros Sois
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes Son

 

As you can see, the verb ser is completely irregular. There really isn’t any rhyme or reason to the conjugation pattern, so all you can do is memorize it. In other words – practice, practice, practice. 

Conjugate Ser Imperfect Tense

So now that we remember what the conjugation for ser in the present looks like, we can look at it in the imperfect tense. The good news is, ser is actually more like the regular verbs in the imperfect, so it won’t be as difficult! 

The following table shows ser in the imperfect tense:

Spanish Personal Pronouns Verb Ser (to be)
Yo Era
Tú  Eras
Él / Ella / Usted Era
Vos Eras
Nosotros Éramos
Vosotros Erais
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes Eran

QUICK TIP…

Vos is principally used in many parts of Central America and Rioplatense Spanish (Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, certain parts of Chile). Vosotros is only used in Spain, except for the Canary Islands and parts of Andalusia.

As you can see, it’s not exactly a regular verb because it doesn’t follow the same pattern as any other type of verb, but it does make some logical sense. 

The ser conjugation in the imperfect tense is almost as if “Erar” were a verb. You use the root “Er” and then add the a, as, a, amos, an endings. Of course, that’s not what’s really happening, but if it helps you remember, then perfect! 

The imperfect tense, like all verb conjugations, takes some practice to memorize and get it stuck in your head. So make sure you practice them often. Now, before you start making your flashcards, let’s look at some ways to use the imperfect tense.

How to Use the Imperfect Tense

The imperfect tense is used to describe a repeated past action, something without a definite beginning, or to describe how something was in the past. Just for a quick review, let’s go over each of those:

Repeated Past Actions

Something that happened many times in the past always uses the imperfect tense. This is in contrast to the Spanish preterite tense, which describes something that occurred with a clear beginning and an end. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Yo siempre jugaba fútbol todos los viernes. – I always played soccer/football every Friday.
  • Antes, iba a estudiar en la biblioteca. – Before, I would go study in the library.

In both of these events, you’re describing something that happened more than once, but in the past. For that reason, we use the imperfect.

Did you know that one of the most common reasons people stop learning a foreign language is the lack of motivation? In our online Spanish conversation classes, you can find insanely practical lessons, fun activities, and friends. Even better, classes now run 24 hours a day!

No definite beginning and end

When you want to point out that something was happening in the past, but the beginning and end aren’t clear, or it doesn’t matter, then we use the imperfect. For example:

  • Mi abuelo hablaba francés. – My grandfather spoke French.
  • A él le encantaba nadar. – He loved swimming.

In both of those examples, there’s no clear beginning and end to the actions they did in the past, so there’s no reason to be more specific with the preterite tense. Instead, we’ll use the imperfect conjugation to express a lack of time specificity. 

Descriptions of the past

If you just want to give background information or describe how something was in the past, then you’ll put the verbs in the imperfect tense. 

  • Yo tenía el pelo corto. – My hair was short. 
  • Él / Ella leía mientras nosotros jugábamos videojuegos. – He / She read while we were playing video games.

In many cases like this, an interruption in the preterite tense will come afterward. But for this type of descriptive information, you use the imperfect tense. 

How to use Ser in the Imperfect Tense

Image by cottonbro via Pexels

Finally, using ser in the imperfect tense is a very common way to describe events in the past. And, as you just saw, since you need to use the imperfect to describe past events, what better verb to use than ser

To use ser in the past, you just need to make sure you’re describing something that happened or giving background information. 

So let’s look at some examples:

  • De niño, yo era muy bajo. – As a boy, I was really short.
  • Ella era profesora. – She was a teacher.
  • Vosotros erais muy listos. – You all were really smart.
  • No era el momento adecuado. – It wasn’t the right moment.
  • ¿Usted era médico? – You were a doctor? 

In all of these examples, you’ll use the imperfect tense for ser because it’s describing either a person or an event in the past. And that’s all there is to it! 

Ya era hora 

It’s about time you got that out of the way! Now you’re a pro at using ser in the imperfect. Even though this Spanish verb can be tricky, the good news is that this isn’t the most difficult tense to use it in. In fact, it comes almost naturally! 

So naturally, that you’ll have no problems using it with us while you’re practicing. Why not go ahead and sign up for a free private class or a 7-day free trial of our group classes so you can show us everything you learned?

Want to learn Spanish, fast?

Download our e-book, Easy Spanish Shortcuts, and learn your first 1,000 Spanish words in under a day!