Quick Answer

The imperfect progressive tense tells what a person was doing. It's especially useful when you want to emphasize the fact that an action in the past was interrupted.

Forming the Imperfect Progressive

The imperfect progressive tense is formed with the imperfect indicative of the verb estarand the present participle of the content verb, which tells you what was happening. This is known as a perífrasis verbal, or verbal periphrasis.

Imperfect Progressive Formula

imperfect indicative of estar + present participle

Imperfect Progressive Forms

Here's an example of the verb hablar(to speak) in the imperfect progressive.

Estaba hablando.
I was speaking.
Estabas hablando.
You were speaking.
él, ella, usted
Estaba hablando.
He/She was speaking./You were speaking.
Estábamos hablando.
We were speaking.
Estabais hablando.
You (all) were speaking.
ellos, ellas, ustedes
Estaban hablando.
They were speaking./You were speaking.

Check out these examples of the imperfect progressive.

Estaba hablando con mi madre cuando llamaste.
I was talking to my mother when you called.
Estaba trabajando a las ocho.
He was working at eight o’clock.
Nos vio cuando estábamos caminando en el parque.
He saw us when we were walking in the park.

In the first example above, the action that was interrupted (estaba hablando) is in the imperfect progressive, while the action that interrupted is in the preterite (llamaste).

More Progressive Tenses

By changing the tense of estar, you can form different progressive tenses, such as the present progressive, the preterite progressive, the imperfect progressive, and the future progressive, etc. The present participle itself doesn't change.

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