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Please read the below sentence which is in the past tense.
Can I replace "caminamos" to "caminábamos" to describe a continued action?

  1. Así que caminamos de tienda en tienda para comprar las flores más baratas y bonitas.

Let's read another example below:

  1. Esta mañana fui a la playa. Había mucha gente en la playa. Tomé el sol.

If we use "caminamos" for the first sentence, why we use "había" for the second??

Thanks very much!

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It depends of the context. –  Alfredo Osorio Feb 7 '12 at 16:23
    
@AlfredoO: Suppose"this morning we went to the market to buy flowers. We walked from shop to shop to buy the cheapest and most beautiful flowers." Can we use "caminabamos" for "walked"?? –  Cadenza Feb 7 '12 at 16:45
    
closely related : spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/417/… –  Javi Feb 7 '12 at 18:06
    
@Javi: no, "había" is imperfect past tense but "caminamos" is simple past tense. –  Cadenza Feb 8 '12 at 12:19
    
What alternative do you think of for había? it means there was/there were so it's just fine here. –  Petruza Feb 9 '12 at 0:17

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Yes, you can use caminábamos to describe a continued action in the past or an unfinished action.

The first translation is:

Caminamos de tienda en tienda para comprar las flores más baratas y hermosas.

We walked from shop to shop to buy the cheapest and most beautiful flowers.

On the other hand:

Caminábamos de tienda en tienda para comprar las flores más baratas y hermosas.

We used to walk from shop to shop to buy the cheapest and most beautiful flowers.

We were walking from shop to shop to buy the cheapest and most beautiful flowers when something occurred.

Normally, the past tense is used for completed actions in the past and the imperfect tense is used for continued actions. In your example:

  • Esta mañana fui a la playa: I went and I arrived-> past tense.

  • Había mucha gente: There were a lot of people while I was there->imperfect tense.

  • Tomé el sol: I did it, but I am not doing it->past tense.

If you say Hubo mucha gente it usually means that the people went away while you were there.

You may find more information here.

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"caminamos" is both preterite and present tense of "caminar" so it can also be used for past actions. –  Alfredo Osorio Feb 7 '12 at 23:36
    
@J.Calleja: thanks for the answer. Sorry but it does not help very much. –  Cadenza Feb 8 '12 at 3:54
    
Sorry, I didn't notice it was past tense. I have updated the answer. –  J. Calleja Feb 8 '12 at 23:01
    
@J.Calleja: thanks very much! –  Cadenza Feb 9 '12 at 12:52
    
@Calleja: I am a bad user of this site. I didn't realize I've missed the ratings. –  Cadenza Jul 7 '12 at 10:16

I think that for this case "caminamos" is more appropriate.

I would use "caminábamos" for an action that used to occur but something made it to stop or change.

For example:

Caminábamos de tienda en tienda para comprar flores cuando de repente empezó a llover y tuvimos que regresar a casa.

Nosotros caminábamos por aqui cuando eramos niños. (We don't anymore)

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I've edited my question. Hope you could help. –  Cadenza Feb 8 '12 at 4:02

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