Action completed, Spot (undefined) and durative action (imperfect)
This aspect considers the past tense is a past action, seen as a particular point made in the past, while imperfect is also a past action but regarded as durative, without specifying the beginning or end of the action. It should be emphasized that the imperfect doesn’t tells us if the action has been finished or not.
Generally the durative action can be seen in the stories. Here is an example and discussed below:
Story: La naturaleza de la mente
Se 1) trataba de un hombre que 2) llevaba muchas horas viajando a pie y 3) estaba realmente cansado y sudoroso bajo el implacable sol de la India. Extenuado y sin poder dar un paso más, se 4) echó (threw himself to rest) a descansar bajo un frondoso árbol. El suelo 5) estaba duro y el hombre 6) pensó en lo agradable que sería disponer de una cama. Resulta que aquél 7) era un árbol celestial de los que conceden los deseos de los pensamientos y los hacen realidad. Así es que al punto 8) apareció una confortable cama.
El hombre se 9) echó sobre ella y estaba disfrutando en el mullido lecho cuando 10) pensó en lo placentero que resultaría que una joven le diera masaje en sus fatigadas piernas. Al momento 11) apareció una bellísima joven que comenzó a procurarle un delicioso masaje. Bien descansado, 12) sintió hambre y 13) pensó en qué grato sería poder degustar una sabrosa y opípara comida. En el acto 14) aparecieron ante él los más suculentos manjares. El hombre 15) comió hasta saciarse y se 16) sentía muy dichoso. De repente le 17) asaltó un pensamiento (an abrupt thought appeared): “!Mira que si ahora un tigre me atacase!” 18) Apareció un tigre y lo 19) devoró (ate him).
1) Trataba: means it was about, but in Spanish we have a way to use the past for actions or in this case a story that lasted more than one moment in time. And a story has a beginning, development and an end.
2) Llevaba: means he had been many hours travelling. Again this gives us an idea that he has been traveling for a time,and besides it says that “muchas horas viajando”, we don’t know what time he stopped, but this is not the point the story wants to make.
3) Estaba: He was tired and sweaty. If we said estuvo cansado, it gives us an idea that at that moment he wasn’t anymore tired, but if we say estaba, it means that at that moment was still tired.
4) Echó (threw himself to rest) a dormir: It is telling us that he was already on the floor, under the tree.
5) Estaba: In this case, if we said the floor was hard: “el suelo estuvo duro” it means that at that moment in the past the floor was not hard anymore, but if we said estaba, means that in that moment in the past was still hard. These are ways that the Spanish language has to express different things in the past.
6) Pensó: If we say pensaba in this case, it means that at that moment in the past he was still thinking that would be great to have a bed. But the thought, penso in that second he already did it at that time in the past.
7) Era: It was a celestial tree, which in Spanish if you say “era” instead of “fue”, means that at that moment in the past was still a celestial tree, and maybe until now in the present, but we don’t know that. But if we said “fue” we know for sure that at that moment in the past was not anymore a celestial tree.
8) Apareció: The fact that a bed appeared, it is not an action that last so long, in this case is clear, at that moment appeared and it happened in that exact moment, it doesn’t take that much time to appear something.
9) Echó ((threw himself on the bed) sobre la cama: means that at that moment in the past he was already in the bed, he threw himself to the bed, literally at that moment. But we can said “se echaba”, but in this case it doesn’t matter where he was throwing himself in, we would want to emphasize that the action lasted a little bit more and maybe he didn’t make it to the bed or yes, but if we say “se echaba” would be not the point the story wants to make.
10) Pensó: In this case we want to emphasize that he thought and he did it in that exact time, because if we say “pensaba” we don’t know if we actually end up thinking that maybe he stopped thinking about that. We want to said that at that moment in the past he did it.
11) Apareció: Appeared it one moment, it is much better to use the “indefinido”, the beautiful woman definitely appeared.
12) Sintió: He definitely felt hungry at that moment in the past, and then he feed himself with the delicacy that the tree made come true. But if we said sentia means that his hunger lasted longer, but this was not the case.
13) Pensó: In this case we want to emphasize that the thought lasted maybe one second, it already happened, if we said pensaba it feels like maybe at that moment he did stop thinking about it or not, but in this case is clear he thought.
14) Aparecieron: means appeared. Again in this case there is no doubt the delicacies appeared and it lasted maybe one second, but if we want to say “aparecían” gives an idea that they didn’t appear all of the sudden, they started appeared slowly or it took a time to appear, like on by one.
15) Comió hasta saciarse (ate until he satisfied himself): Here it depends if you want to emphasize the moment of him eating until satisfied himself or that he just ate and you don’t want to emphasized that it took a while, you just want to say that he did it.
16) Sentía muy dichoso (he felt a fortunate guy): In this case the author of the story wanted to emphasize that his enjoyment lasted a while, not just a second. It depends how you want to create your story.
17) asaltó un pensamiento (an abrupt thought appeared): Yes, here we wanted to said that it lasted a very short time and it was a sudden thing, but if we say “asaltaba un pensamiento”, we wanted to emphasize that it was not sudden and it lasted some time.
18) Apareció: un tigre: This action was a sudden action and definitely didn’t last that much. If you want to say that it wasn’t so sudden, then you can use “aparecía”.
19) Devoró : This one is funny, because fortunately the tiger ate him quickly, because if you say “se lo devoraba” you can imagine the tiger chewing the guy! So when you create your own story, you know how to express it.