Regular actions in the past

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The next stop of our train called “Learning Portuguese” will be at the station of the past time “Pretérito Imperfeito”. This verbal tense will help us talk not about single actions in the past, but about a long period of time and repetitive actions or situations that may have influenced our lives now.

Regular actions in the past

Creation of Pretérito Imperfeito

Like any verbal tense, Pretérito Imperfeito (hereinafter referred to as P.I.) has a basic rule and exceptions. To form the form of the verb in this tense, it is traditionally necessary to change the ending of regular verbs. So let’s take a look at the little table below.

Ending in P.I. (-ar)
Eu -ava
Tu -avas
Ele, ela, você -ava
Nós -ávamos
Eles, elas, vocês -avam


Let’s not delay and immediately look at examples.

Na minha infância eu praticava danças de salão. (I used to do ballroom dancing as a child.)

Ela falava muitas línguas quando trabalhava numa empresa internacional. (She spoke many languages ​​when she worked for an international company.)

Verbs ending in “-er” and “-ir” have the same ending change.

Ending in P.I. (-er. -ir)
Eu -ia
Tu -ias
Ele, ela, você -ia
Nós íamos
Eles, elas, vocês iam

Note that in both tables for the pronoun “nós” a sign appears above the letter “á” and “í“. This is because in Portuguese the stressed syllable is penultimate, and we need to emphasize the desired stressed syllable.

So, examples:

No início da sua careira ele fazia muitos erros. (He made many mistakes early in his career.)

Antigamente ele escrevia pouco, mas agora é um escritor famoso. (He used to write little, but now he is a famous writer.)

Thus, we emphasize the duration of the action. Similarly, we can describe a continuous state.

Eles não saiam de casa, porque estavam doentes. (They did not leave the house because they were sick.)

Nós não estávamos prontos para fazer uma viagem ao redor do mundo. (We weren’t ready to travel around the world.)

Often in sentences that require the use of Pretérito Imperfeito there are adverbs such as: antigamente (before), naquele tempo (at that time), no passado (in the past) and others. It is not necessary to say them every time, but in order to get your bearings, at first you can check whether they are suitable for the thought that you want to express.

Irregular verbs in Pretérito Imperfeito

We want to make you happy! There are few irregular verbs in this tense, only three. Let’s start in order.

Since the verb “ir(to go) is exactly the same as the ending of some verbs in the infinitive – “-ir“, its forms exactly repeat the endings for such verbs in Pretérito Imperfeito.


Verbo “ir”
Eu ia
Tu ias
Ele, ela, você ia
Nós íamos
Eles, elas, vocês iam


Amazing, right?

See examples:

A Victoria não ia à escola porque estudava em casa. (Victoria didn’t go to school because she studied at home.)

Antigamente íamos ao cinema muito raramente. (We used to go to the movies very rarely.)

The next irregular verb is “ter“. Its forms are also exclusive, but they must be learned, as we will need them to study another verbal tense in the future.

Verbo “ter”
Eu tinha
Tu tinhas
Ele, ela, você tinha
Nós tínhamos
Eles, elas, vocês tinham


Note that in the form for the pronoun “nós” for the verbs “ir” and “ter” appears the superscript – “í“. In addition, the form of these forms “ter” must be used when we talk about age in the past.

Quando ela tinha 6 anos, cantava muito bem. (When she was 6 years old, she sang very well.)

Eles tinham mais de 50 anos, quando se mudaram para Portugal. (They were over 50 when they moved to Portugal.)

In the second example, you can see how two different past tenses are used in the same sentence. This is because age is considered a continuous state (as many as 365 days a year), and moving is a single, short-term action.

The third irregular verb is “ser“. Its forms will definitely have to be used when we talk about the time on the clock in the past, despite the fact that time moves and changes every second.

Verbo “ser”
Eu era
Tu eras
Ele, ela, você era
Nós éramos
Eles, elas, vocês eram


As usual, we will apply new knowledge in practice:

Ela era muito simpática antes do seu casamento. (She was very sweet before her marriage.)

Era meia-noite, quando o João voltou para casa. (It was midnight when João returned home.)

This concludes the list of irregular verbs, which means it’s time to start learning when else we can use the Pretérito Imperfeito tense.

Action at the moment

To describe an action that is happening right now, we use the following scheme: estar a + infinitive. Therefore, if we want to describe an action that takes place at a specific moment in the past, then we use exactly the same scheme, only we put the verb “estar” in the form Pretérito Imperfeito.

Ela estava a tomar banho, quando ele chegou. (She was taking a bath when he came.)

Eu vi como ela estava a correr pelo parque. (I saw her running in the park.)In this example, it is clear that one action was happening while another was happening.

You can add the word “enquanto(while), but this is not required. However, if two long actions occur at the same time, such a scheme can be omitted.

Eu lia um livro enquanto a mãe lavava a loiça. (I was reading a book while my mother was washing the dishes.)

O Marco falava pelo telemóvel quando a Joana cozinhava. (Marco was talking on the phone while Joana was cooking.)


With each lesson at our school, your possibilities become more and more limitless. Our teachers, like every person in their profession, know all the nuances and help to avoid energy losses during training. Therefore “poupem tempo e aprendam português connosco“. (Save time and learn Portuguese with us.)

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