6

I am aware of when to use imperfecto and when to use indefinido in many cases. However, the following examples are not clear to me.

  1. In a text about 'Bambi', there is written:

Felix Salten fue un escritor austríaco.

I don't know why indefinido (of ser), 'fue', instead of imperfecto 'era'(of ser) in such a sentence. I have learned that imperfecto should be used to talk about background information, and indefinido for actions.

  1. In the same text, a new section starts with:

Cuando la familia (de Salten) tuvo problemas económicos, Felix abandonó el colegio y empezó a trabajar en una agencia de seguros."

I have the same problem with 'tuvo'. I would put 'tenía' here, because the part 'Cuando la familia ...(tener) problemas económicos' is expressing circumstances and I have learned that imperfecto should be used to express circumstances (and for background information).

The text is contained in 'Con dinámica: Spanisch A1, A2, B1 +', a German book.

I would appreciate explanations.

7

The imperfect here would mean something like "action that was taking place while suddenly something interrupted it".

Félix era un escritor austriaco, pero todo eso cambió.

Indefinido (or preterite) is much more suitable for telling a story. This is narration of who he was.

It's something like Felix was a writer vs. Felix used to be a writer. The first one fits better.

Your 2nd example works similarly, but I understand you have doubts here, as it is common to see the structure When [imperfect], [preterite].

However, an imperfect here would denote either routines in the past or a focusing on that interval.

Cuando la familia tenía problemas

sounds like "Every time the family had problems" (routines in the past) It can also mean you're focusing on that part of the story, implying a dilation of time. Like "Things happened, more things happened, and when finally the family started having problems..."

But I don't think this is what you want. For a storytelling, it's more usual to use the preterite. This is for finished actions past in the time line. You're just telling "this happened, then this happened, and later on this other thing happened".

1

Como se indica en el artículo el pasado en la narración:

"3.4.1 El Pretérito Y El Imperfecto En La Narración

Como hemos dicho, el pretérito sirve para expresar acciones ocurridas en el pasado, percibiéndolas como completas o en su totalidad. El imperfecto, por su parte, sirve para expresar acciones ocurridas en el pasado, enfocándose, no en su principio o en su final, sino en una parte del proceso, en su naturaleza cíclica o en su naturaleza continuada. Dado este contraste, el pretérito toma un aire de mayor definición y el imperfecto uno de indefinición. Esto hace que, si observamos el uso de uno y otro en narraciones nos demos cuenta que, con frecuencia, el imperfecto es usado para establecer el fondo de la narración, mientras que el pretérito sirve para avanzar la trama.

Escuchemos a continuación los dos primeros minutos del cuento de Caperucita Roja. Fíjate en el uso del pretérito y del imperfecto."

[hay un video a continuación en la página enlazada]

Por tanto, se pueden utilizar los dos. Depende de cómo el autor quiere contar la historia.

0

The other answers are great, but I'd like to give you a simpler way of looking at it.

We use "fue" when the past action is complete. It's not ongoing. If the author is no longer living, then we say Felix Salten fue un escritor austríaco. If the family had economic problems at a specific point in time in the past, and it doesn't have problems any more, then la familia tuvo problemas económicos.

Here's another example:

I was sincere when I congratulated you on your victory. | Fui sincer@ cuando te felicité por tu triunfo.

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