Preterite or Imperfect Past?


Ok, perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself, since I've only been learning Spanish for three weeks but I recent watched a "Light Speed Spanish" YouTube video, where Gordon explains four ways to say "was" ( The way he explains it is brilliant but then, in one of the Rocket Spanish lessons, a sentence has got me confused!

So, which is correct:

1) Me corté la mano con el cuchillo. 
2) Me cortaba la mano con el cuchillo.

Any takers?


My feeling is that the verb should be conjugated in the preterite (corté) (rather than the imperfect (cortaba)), since it was a single event that happened: I cut my finger. I didn't do it multiple times (thankfully!), even though I don't say exactly when I cut it. It could have been today, yesterday or five years ago. So even though I don't specify an exact time when the event occurred, it is reasonable to assume that the event was completed.

Is my rationale correct?



Hola  Steve,

Not sure which lesson this refers to, but my take is if  I was asked what happened to your hand ? I would say me corte la mano. Íf  discussing a past job as a cook etc. I agree, me cortaba la mano. Seems like your rationale is correct. Did you watch the LIghtSpeed video about "se" ?




Gracias, Ricardo. Glad I'm on the right track!

I haven't quite gotten to the "se" video yet but I plan on watching it este fin de semana ;)


En mi opinion, la frase debe ser en el preterito. Creo que para demonstrar la diferencia, se necesita el contexto, por ejemplo:

Cuando trabajaba en el restaurante, me corté la mano con un cuchillo y tuve que ir al hospital.

Cuando trabajaba en el restaurante, me cortaba la mano con un cuchillo  frecuentamente.

Me gusté el video de Gordon sobre "se," es muy informativo y divertido. También, encontré otro video, Leccíon 31, que explica reflexivos, recíprocos, y otro usados de "se." 


Bien dicho, amigo – yo también iba a hablar de la importancia del contexto. Añado otro ejemplo: Cortaba las legumbres cuando me llamó alguien.

Good job stepchook in asking all these questions. I hope others follow your lead. I know Dan, Ricardo, myself as well as a few other active users here at the forum look forward to responding to them.


Gracias a todos por su ayuda. Es muy amable.

It's definitely a lot clearer to me now.


Recuerdo que hace unos tres años Dan cortó su mano.


¡Si, amigo! Me acuerdo este día cada vez mira a mi dedo. 


Good stuff here, but why leave well enough alone? Un ejemplo más para crear confusion.   :)

​Mientras cortaba la mano, grité.


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