Would "Ele dormava no chão" mean the same thing? I was under the impression that "dormia" meant something like "if he did not have a bed, he WOULD SLEEP on the floor." And dormava (if this is even a word) means more of the meaning given above. Ex: "Before we had a bed, he USED TO SLEEP on the floor."
There's no "dormava" - most of the time, for verbs ending in ir (and er) they are conjugated with ia at the end, rather than ava (which is usually for verbs ending in ar). So, for example: dormir = ele dormia, comer = ele comia, andar = ele andava.
He would sleep would be Ele dormiria.
It may be confusing because the ending is "ia" for both. The difference is that for the conditional, the "ia" is appended to the end of the verb (like the "ing" in English), and for the past the ending is changed - the conditional "ia" replaces the verb ending:
Dormir - Dormia - Dormiria
Hope that clarifies things a little! I recommend always using a verb table - not even we know all these forms by heart hahahahah C:
All these translations are viable, depending on context.
Ele dormia no chão:
He "used to sleep" on the floor [but now he sleeps in a bed.]
He "slept" on the floor when he lived with us last summer.
He "would sleep" on the floor when it was hot in the days before air conditioning.
He "was sleeping" on the floor when I arrived home last evening.
The "imperfeito" tense is the most used past tense in Portuguese and translates to the "simple past" and the "past continuous" as well as with the modals "would" and "used to". Each translation depends on context.
DL's software overuses the "used to" construction which, as you have written, often implies a past discontinued habit. You'll see the "imperfeito" used as a narrative tense almost all the time in Portuguese whereas English often prefers the simple past.