Spanish has different types of past tenses. There are also many conjugations and moods. So, it’s not a surprise that Spanish can be a confusing language for many people. Maybe you’ve tried to memorize all the rules, but that’s not always the most efficient way to get fluent in Spanish. If you want to gain confidence speaking about the past in Spanish, it’s better to learn through games and in context.

Have you tried listening to music? You will not only learn to express ideas in different Spanish tenses, but also learn some casual phrases to tell the stories that you’ve lived; improve your pronunciation and intonation; and gain some vocabulary and music knowledge. It’s well-known that music helps you in your language learning process.

That’s why, now that we’ve presented you with the pretérito indefinido (preterite/simple past tense) songs, we’ll show you some of the best songs in Spanish to understand the pretérito imperfecto (imperfect past tense).

Pretérito Imperfecto

This past tense is used for actions that happened in the past but don’t have a specific time or date. But a better way to learn them is how they are used in English.

Use when: you used to do something, you would always do something, you were doing something, or something that was always a way in the past (the always is understood and helps an English speaker know when to use this tense).

  • ¿Recuerdas cuando jugábamos a las escondidas? (Remember when we used to play hide and seek?)

It’s also used to talk about actions that were repeated over and over again, like habits.

  • Cuando era más joven, yo corría todos los días. (When I was younger, I used to run every day/I would always run.)

Or to describe things or situations from the past.

  • El perro ladraba muy fuerte. (The dog used to bark/would always bark very loudly.)
  • Las fiestas familiares eran aburridas. (The family parties were (always) boring.)

When you describe a situation, the main action goes in pretérito indefinido and what surrounds that main action goes in imperfecto.

  • La fiesta era tan aburrida que nos fuimos. (The party was so boring that we left.)

Leaving is the main action, and to be boring is the description of the party.

As you’ve seen, a lot of times we use the pretérito imperfecto alongside the pretérito indefinido, or even other tenses. If you still have trouble having a fluent conversation using this tense, don’t worry! Listen to these next songs to learn how and when to speak Spanish in the imperfect past tense.

8 Songs in Pretérito Imperfecto (Imperfect Past Tense) to Learn Spanish

1. Fernando – ABBA

You’ve probably heard some of Abba’s greatest hits, like “Dancing Queen” or “Mamma Mia”. ABBA is a famous Swedish group, whose music has reached many different countries and generations. “Fernando” is one of ABBA’s greatest hits.

The original song is in Swedish, sung only by Frida, one of the members of ABBA, for her solo album. It’s about Fernando’s broken heart. But in English and Spanish it’s about Fernando and his friend remembering when they fought in a Mexican war.

The song in Spanish is perfect for you to learn the imperfect tense because it has a lot of examples of it in its indicative and subjunctive forms.

Key Phrases:

  • Se acercaban – They were getting closer
  • Si tuviera que volverlo a hacer, lo haría – If I had to do it again, I would
  • Pareciera que fue ayer – It looks like it was yesterday

Enjoy the song:

2. Galerna – La Oreja de Van Gogh

La Oreja de Van Gogh is a very famous Spanish group. They have become successful around the world, and have built a career of more than 20 years. Their lyrics vary from love songs to social problems; they can write sweet stories and very serious topics.

“Galerna” is a song from their latest album “Un susurro en la tormenta”. It’s narrated by a kid who has to live with two parents that fight every day. So, it’s about a relationship that is broken, but also about their child, who’s in the middle.

It’s perfect to learn many verb conjugations in the imperfect past tense. It will also help you understand how to use the imperfect tense for actions that used to be repetitive since it describes the everyday life within this family.

Key phrases:

  • Salía de casa – (I/he/she) would leave home
  • Él volvía tarde y cansado – He would come back late and tired
  • Abría sus ojos – (He/She) would open her/his eyes
  • Iba a comenzar – It was going to begin

Enjoy the song:

3. Ojos Noche – Elsa y Elmar

Elsa y Elmar is the artistic name of the Colombian singer Elsa Carvajal. She launched her first EP, “Sentirnos bien”, in 2013. Since then, she has made some big achievements, such as being the opening act for Coldplay’s 2016 concert in Bogotá!

Ojos noche” is a heartbreak song that will help you improve your conjugations of the imperfect indicative tense. It has verbs repeated throughout the song and are conjugated with different personal pronouns. It will also help you understand how you can use this tense to tell a story without having to clarify the date when it happened.

If you’re interested, the song also has another version sung as a duet with Carla Morrison.

Key phrases:

  • Me recogía – (He/she) would pick me up
  • Hablábamos de… – We talked about…
  • Yo decía la verdad – I was telling the truth
  • Él me miraba – He would look at me

Enjoy the music video:

4. Te conocí en un bazar – Flans

Flans is a popular 80s Mexican girl band, composed of Ivonne Guevara, Ilse María Olivo ,and Irma Hernández (Mimí). “Bazar” was their first ever single, and it was very successful.

This simple, yet fun and catchy love song is another example of how this past tense is very useful to tell a story. Though the chorus is in the simple past, the rest of the verses have a lot of verbs in the imperfect tense. It’s the perfect example to understand how the simple past and imperfect tense work together a lot of the time.

Key phrases:

  • Me seguías – You were following me
  • Yo me compraba… – I was buying (something) for myself
  • Sabías… – You knew… (Use this form for saber 99.9% of the time. Don’t overthink it.)
  • A ver qué cara ponía – To see which face I would make (Useful phrase alert: this is usually said when you are going to surprise someone, for good or bad, and you want to or are nervous to see his/her face: ¡A ver qué cara pone! / let’s see which face he/she will make!)

Enjoy the music video:

5. Cuando ella me amaba – Alessandra Rosaldo

Alessandra Rosaldo is a Mexican singer, and a member of the duo “Sentidos Opuestos”. “Cuando ella me amaba” is the Spanish version of the Toy Story 2 song “When she loved me”. The song was included in Sentidos Opuestos’ album “Movimiento Perpetuo”.

With this song, you’ll learn to describe past situations and feelings. Like when she says: “me sentía tan feliz” (I felt so happy). You’ll also get to compare the use of the same phrase in both simple past and imperfect past tense: “cuando me amó” (when she loved me) vs “cuando me amaba” (when she used to love me).

Key phrases:

  • Me amaba – (I/He/She) used to love me
  • Solía… – I used to…
  • Como debía ser – As it had to be
  • Me sentía – (I) felt… (a certain way)

Enjoy the music video:

6. Soñé una vida – Los Miserables

If you are a fan of musical theater, you’ve probably heard “I dreamed a dream”, from Les Miserable. Well, this is the Spanish version of that song. It is sung mostly in simple past and imperfect tense.

It will help you understand that the imperfect tense is also used to describe or narrate dreams because you can’t find them in a specific timeline. Of course, dreams aren’t only told in this tense, you can use others.

For example:

  • En mi sueño bailé con ella. – In my dream, I danced with her.

But it definitely sounds more fluent with the imperfect:

  • Soñé que yo bailaba con ella. – I dreamed I was dancing with her.

Key phrases:

  • Estaba llena de esperanza – (It/She/I) was full of hope
  • Yo era una niña – I was a girl
  • Amaba tan feliz – I loved (someone or something) so happily

Enjoy the song:

7. No lloraba, sonreía (Sonreía) – Chabuca Granda

If you like folklore and afro-Peruvian music, you’ll enjoy this artist. She was a Peruvian singer-songwriter, whose music and lyrics are still important to this day. So much so that a lot of international artists have sung her songs. In Peru, her music was even declared National Cultural Heritage!

No lloraba, sonreía” presents you with many verbs conjugated in this tense and in their indicative form. She also uses two verbs in a row in some verses, like in the title itself. Another example: “Te veía que decías…”- I’d see you saying (something.) It’s also good to learn how to use the imperfect tense to explain actions or describe things.

The song has been sung by other artists, including Chabuca Granda’s friend Patricia González.

Key phrases:

  • Sonreía – (I/He/She) was smiling.
  • Eran muy bellos – They were very beautiful.
  • Le hablabas – You were talking to her/him.

*Extra: Another song that will help you with the imperfect tense is “La flor de la canela”, which is her most popular song. It has been sung by many artists, including Plácido Domingo and Julio Iglesias.

Enjoy the song:

8. Lo mejor de tu vida (Fuiste mía) – Julio Iglesias

Julio Iglesias is a Spanish singer, renowned internationally. He has many albums, hits, awards, and records. He has sung in many different languages (Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, and more). His contribution to the music industry made him earned him a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Now you know, if you want to practice other languages through music, you can always look for Julio Iglesias’ songs.

Fuiste mía” is the perfect song to practice your fluency when speaking with the Spanish past tenses, since it combines the simple, imperfect and perfect past tenses very effortlessly.

Like when he sings:

  • Fuiste mía […] cuando tu piel era fresca – You were mine when your skin was fresh (simple past and imperfect)

Or when he sings:

  • Lo mejor de tu vida lo he disfrutado yo – I’ve enjoyed the best of your life (past perfect)

Key Phrases:

  • Cuando cerrabas los ojos – Whenever you used to/would always close your eyes
  • Yo me acercaba – I would get close
  • No existía – (Something/someone) didn’t exist/didn’t use to exist

Enjoy the music video:

Sing in Spanish Like No One is Listening!

As you can see, the pretérito imperfecto is used to express many things, from talking about past actions without specifying a date to describing things, moments, and emotions. Plus, it goes hand in hand with other verb tenses, especially simple past tense. As in many other languages, people don’t speak only in a single tense, but when learning a new language it’s hard to gain the fluency you need to speak in different tenses.

But don’t stress yourself too much. Just listen to the songs above to improve your communication and understanding of this Spanish tense. You can even organize a karaoke night with your friends! Singing the lyrics while seeing them will make you improve your reading skills and your pronunciation. You’ll soon realize that you’ve gained fluency without noticing because you were just having fun.

And, if you feel like you still need more help, take a trial Spanish class with us for only $35. Our method is fun, effective, and personalized!