Continuing with our ‘past continuous’ theme, we have now resolved all possible doubts regarding –ar verbs in this tense, as they all behave in exactly the same way. Sometimes there just isn’t anything else to say about something!
Now here is even more good news about this remarkably easy tense, which is that the –er verbs and the –ir verbs do exactly the same things as each other. In both of these two groups the endings contain an ‘í’ instead of an ‘ab’ as follows:
Here is an –er verb for you:
Bebía – I was drinking
Bebías – you were drinking
Bebía he or she was drinking – or formal ‘you’
Bebíamos – we were drinking
Bebíais – you were drinking – plural
Bebían – they were drinking
Now for an –ir verb, just so you can see I’m telling the truth!
Vivía – I was living
Vivías – you were living
Vivía – he or she was living – or formal ‘you’
Vivíamos – we were living
Vivíais – you were living – plural
Vivían – they were living
Some people might still be guilty of confusing the pronunciation of these two very different verbs, (beber and vivir), but really at this stage there’s no excuse! It all hangs on the correct differentiation between the ‘e’ and ‘I’ vowels in the roots of the verbs beb and viv, since the ‘b’ and ‘v’ is practically indistinguishable. As far as the endings are concerned, notice that the letter ‘í’ at the beginning of all the endings is accented, placing the beat of the word always on that same place.
Now you have a perfect sentence to practise on unsuspecting passers-by:
Cuando yo vivía en Inglaterra, bebía todos los días, pero ahora bebo todo el tiempo – just my little joke!
Once we start reminiscing about years gone by and the things we used to do (which you can now do in Spanish with no problem at all) you will soon discover you need at least two of our three irregular verbs, so here is a small advance on these to get you going:
Era (I was, from ser)
Iba (I used to go/I went, from ir)
Here is a sentence to start you off:
When I was a child, I used to go to school by bus.
Cuando yo era niño/niña, iba al colegio en autobús.
Next month we will see what else ser and ir do in this tense.
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish”
articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.