Era or fui/estava or estive?

In our class last night we were studying the past tenses of ser and estar. There seemed to be two forms. With ser in the 1st person, there was eu era or eu fui. And in estar there was eu estava and eu estive.
When do use era and when do you fui. And likewise, when do you use estava vs. estive?

Bemvindos @michael1! I’m going to monitor this one to find out the answer as I seem to always be betwixt and between on it, too.

1 Like

Hi @michael1,

I’ll jump in and offer my thoughts until one of the PP gurus can give you a fuller answer.

  • Era and estava are the Past Imperfect tense (Pretérito imperfeito)
    I was doing something (… the action was ongoing in the past)
    E.g. I was in Lisbon when I fell ill.
    Eu estava em Lisboa quando fiquei doente.

  • Fui and estive are the Past Perfect tense (Pretérito perfeito)
    I did something (… the action was completed in the past)
    E.g. Last week I was in Lisbon, but now I’m in London.
    Na semana passada estive em Lisboa, mas agora estou em Londres.

Hope that makes sense, and I’m looking forward to reading other explanations (or corrections!) and nuances. :grinning:


@Jeremy already explained it well, @michael1 ! Just one correction: Portuguese pretérito perfeito = English simple past, not past perfect. I would add that we also use the imperfect to describe recurrent actions/events - the so-called habitual past.

  • She used to study every day. = Ela estudava todos os dias.

Thank you so much Jeremy. This was the most clear explanation I have received. Thank you for taking the time to respond. Much appreciated.


Hi @michael1, you’re very welcome. I’m glad it helped.

Just note the correction added by @Joseph about the name of the tenses, which I got wrong :grinning:

1 Like