When I want to say the following in Spanish:

I was a little bit sick last weekend.

Do I use the pretérito indefinido or imperfecto? e.g.

Estuve un poco enfermo el fin de semana pasado.


Estaba un poco enfermo el fin de semana pasado.

It feels like I'm describing a situation in the past (imperfecto?), but el fin de semana pasado feels like an indefinido. I was sick, but that's completely over...

How do I know what to use?

  • 3
    Both are fine. Depends on the context around them. Nov 28 '16 at 23:30

As you noted estuve indicates the action is over. estaba indicates the action is over or not. In this context is totally irrelevant which form you use. I personally would use estaba which is a much more simpler and common form to indicate a single past action. Specially when you don't include another past action in the same context that needs to be prioritize by time.

  • This makes sense to me. People tend to use "estaba" is situations like this where the existence or nonexistence of a precise endpoint is fuzzy. "Estuve" is an unusual verb. It's not used nearly as often as something like "hablé," because "estaba" is used incredibly often to set a scene, in preparation for reporting a time-defined action with the preterite. For example, "Estaba enfermo cuando llegó tu carta, por lo que no la pude contestar hasta ahora." May 23 '18 at 22:53

Saying "I was a little bit sick last weekend" has a definite end. Therefore, you should use the pretérito indefinido.

  • 2
    How come? You can still be sick. Nov 29 '16 at 7:17
  • 1
    The English sentence "I was a little bit sick last weekend" implies that the speaker is no longer sick. If it was an ongoing sickness, the sentence would have been: "I have been sick since last weekend." Nov 29 '16 at 23:20
  • 2
    No longer still sick at what point? If he says I was sick and then describes what he was doing as a result of so being, it needs to be imperfect. You can't determine preterite/imperfect generally without more context. That's what fedorqui was getting at. If I say "estaba" or "estuve" enfermo on the weekend, there is going to be the same implication that I am no longer sick — just that with estuve it's guaranteed that I'm not (unless I caught a different illness). Dec 1 '16 at 3:23

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