It's a crossword and the clue is

Tu ____ en México por un año. ¿Verdad?

In parentheses is the verb you are supposed to conjugate after translating it into Spanish, in this case it had (were)

Shouldn't it be imperfect estar? (because location?). But estabas doesn't fit the crossword, though preterite 'estuviste' fits the boxes.

I am confused! It looks like the answer should be estuviste but it's even in my notes that location = imperfect.

Looking at more examples, I've more or less garnered that when the sentence has a set amount of time--such as 'por un mes' or 'el otro dia' then it implies "done action" so = preterite. I was not aware of such a rule. (Is this a correct inference I have made?) For now, since it's been 10 minutes + no answer, I'll go with this.

  • 1
    be aware that "ano" means anus. You may want to say "año" instead.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 23:32
  • I know that. I can't type accents on this keyboard. Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 23:33
  • I'll let someone else explain the grammar but the sentence should be "Tu estuviste en México por un año. ¿Verdad?". You could use "estabas" in a sentence like "Tu estabas en México el año pasado. ¿Verdad?"
    – DGaleano
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 23:34
  • Are you sure the second sentence works? Why is that? I know you would use preterite for "ese verano" for example, but doesn't "el verano pasado" also specify which time frame? So how come imperfect is OK for that? @_@ Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 23:37
  • Three things. First, this forum is not super-fast so don't think that waiting 10 minutes for an answer is long enough. Second, I'm a native speaker and my two examples are absolutely correct. Third, I'm absolutely sure someone in this forum will explain the grammar later.
    – DGaleano
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 23:44

1 Answer 1


Generally speaking, the perfective aspect refers to finished actions, while the imperfective case refers to unfinished actions. But this finished does not mean now, but in the moment implied by the full sentence. I'll take a variation from your example, taken from DGaleano's comment:

Tú estuviste en México el año pasado, ¿verdad?

Tú estabas en México el año pasado, ¿verdad?

Same sentence, excepting for the verb aspect. The meaning is subtly different in each example.

The first sentence means: you went on a trip to Mexico last year, but the trip is over.

The second sentence means: you were in Mexico sometime during last year, or maybe for the whole year, and I am interested in the moment when you were there; it doesn't matter whether you go there regularly, you are still there, you have returned, you have been there again this year...

As you can see, both meanings are not overly different and both sentences could be used interchangeably in some cases; but there is a difference.

Though English has no verbal aspect, we can translate these two sentences differently:

You were to Mexico last year, weren't you?

You were in Mexico last year, weren't you?

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