Spanish Preterite vs. Imperfect Tense Lesson Plans

Learning the difference between the preterite and imperfect tenses in Spanish is a lengthy, challenging, and often frustrating task. Students must first master regular conjugations for each, and then the irregulars. Next, students must understand the basic concept behind using the preterite versus using the imperfect. The following activities aim to help students grasp these concepts and put them into practice with visual aids!

Student Activities for Preterite vs. Imperfect

The chart below simplifies the uses into general categories; however, the application is often much more complex. In general, the preterite tense is used to convey an idea of completed action in the past, something perceived to have a definite beginning and end, even if it’s not directly stated. In contrast, the Spanish imperfect tense is used to imply an ongoing or incomplete action in the past. It is used for actions that don’t have a defined beginning and end.

Preterite Imperfect
Completed Action Incomplete Action
Interrupting Action Interrupted Action
Repeated/Habitual Action

Some of the activities in this lesson plan are designed to isolate these concepts for the student to practice. Others give students the opportunity to piece it all together. However, it is beneficial (but not required) for students to know their conjugations before completing any of the activities.

To extend the activities, allow students to practice speaking and pronunciation! This works especially best with the narrative activity, as students will be able to present their completed story to the class.

Image Attributions
  • Some Math • Behdad Esfahbod • License Attribution (
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