that there are two different past tenses, there must
be a difference between the two of them. Well, there
is. As usually there is this a rule of thumb that can
help to see the general idea. With the Spanish past
tenses we can say:
Whenever the event, the action happens only once and
does not take much time the pretérito
will be the right choice. For example:
repente una bomba explotó.
a bomb exploded.
If this sentence was said in pretérito
imperfecto the meaning would change quite significantly
and honestly that would sound a bit weird because a
bomb usually explodes just once.
a bomb exploded repeatedly. = De
repente una bomba explotaba.
If there are events or actions that
happened or were done repeatedly in the past the pretérito
imperfecto will be the better guess.
Every Sunday I used to have my breakfast
in a café.
tomaba el desayuno en un café.
not: Los domingos tomé el
desayuno en el café).
There are furthermore those verbs
that change their meaning depending on whether they
are used in pretérito
imperfecto or pretérito
indefinido. Here some examples:
(= to know somebody) in imperfecto and in indefinido
||Le conocí en Madrid.
|I met him in Madrid. (to get to know somebody)
||Le conocía bien.
||I knew him well.
(to know somebody)
| saber (=
to know something) in imperfecto and in indefinido
||Lo supe de él.
||I heard it from him. (to learn, to hear, to get to know)
||Lo sabía ya,
||I already knew,
||porque él me lo había dicho.
||because he had told me. (to know)
For more details on this
issue please have look at chapter