"Él decía que yo era su amigo."

Translation:He used to say that I was his friend.

March 5, 2014



There's a subtle difference in the English translations here in my opinion. "He said that I was his friend." seems to imply that "last time I checked, I was his friend so I presume that I still am" whereas "He used to say that I was his friend." implies that "I'm almost certainly not his friend any more."

Also, is there any reason why "He said that I used to be his friend." shouldn't be accepted?

May 6, 2014


I think there is an issue with "used to" that needs to be addressed. In English it often connotes something that happened in the past but will no longer happen now. However, I don't believe this is the way DL is necessarily using it. Instead I think they are using it primarily to distinguish between the preterite and the imperfect.

From Spanish.about: "The past tenses of Spanish are known as the preterite and the imperfect. To oversimplify a bit, the first is usually used to refer to something that happened at a specific point in time, while the later is used to describe events where the time period isn't specific."

In English "He said that I was his friend" can meet both the preterite and the imperfect. I think to distinguish between the two DL is offering the "used to [verb]" as a translation, which is confusing many English speakers because it comes across as meaning "Used to, but now things have changed." So, in this case, "he used to say" is meaning "he said it [some time/s in the past]" but not necessarily "he used to say it [but now has changed his mind]."

October 4, 2014


There is something that the native English speaker intuatively knows about some verb usages that would help him understand some of the usages of the imperfect but I have never seen it discussed (though it may be somewhere) In English we use the present progressive instead of the present when we are talking about finite actions. ¿Qué haces? Trabajo. Becomes What are you doing? I am working. This is true for any true action verb. I am shopping. I am cleaning etc. If someone uses the present tense of these verbs it denotes routine. I walk to work is never confused with I am walking to work. I walk to work answers how do you get to work (routinely) It is also used for storytelling like setting the scene, "He opens the door abruptly and enters the room." Less active verbs do use the present tense routinely. These include to be, to have, to know, to want, to think, to feel, etc. Although this is not a complete parellel to the use of the imperfect and the preterite, I do find it interesting and it has helped me with the use of the imperfect. I am curious what English as a second language speakers may have learned about that. I never learned anything about it at all as it was already ingrained in me by the time I studied grammar and this doesn't seem to be an error ever made by native speakers even as children that I can remember hearing.

October 18, 2015


I think you are absolutely right. In this case, the Spanish phrase could have context such as, "he was saying I was his friend, when someone burst into the room and said that he hated me". Or "Every time we met at parties, he would say that I was his friend." I don't think this implies any change of circumstances, although the possibility remains open.

October 17, 2015


Totally agree! I think DL is using "used to" way more than it should and not necessarily in the correct form

April 19, 2018


Thanks for this! Explains the seemingly nonsense use of "used to" in these sentences!

December 20, 2018


It gets even more intricate in the negative use of 'used to'. You can have, eg 'She didn't use to...' or 'She used not to...'. Both are correct though the latter is definitely more formal and so less invoked (was trying to think of a synonym for 'used').

March 6, 2019


I think "He used to say that I was his friend" doesn't imply that you're not his friend anymore. It just means that he stopped saying that you are. The uncertainty is in him saying (and not you being).

April 13, 2015


that was my answer too and I don't see why it is wrong. I am going to report it and see if the next time it is right.

August 8, 2014


Well, your last sentence has a third meaning. It means that you are quoting him. He actually said, "markbooth used to be my friend."

August 18, 2015

  • 2023

"He said that I used to be his friend" means he said "You used to be my friend" on 1 occasion i.e. you're not his friend now.

"He used to say that I was his friend" means that he said "You are my friend" many times but not recently i.e. you may still be his friend but he no longer says so.

April 29, 2019


vey sad

September 5, 2014


He lied to you honey

January 1, 2016


I tried a combination but was marked down: "He was saying that I used to be his friend." I think that it captures the sense of the sentence well. I'll report it and see if I get lucky.

July 24, 2014


I wrote that, too, and still think it is the very best translation. To a native speaker, it clearly conveys that both actions were occurring sometime in the past. I reported it.

November 29, 2014


Sad story...

March 21, 2017


This is so sad

March 22, 2017


"He said that I was his friend" is incorrect. The test requires the use of the English phrase "used to" which is a pretty narrow interpretation of the past imperfect.

March 5, 2014


You're right, in a real life situation. But I think without a context "he said" would be translated as simple past (ie the preterite tense). Since there is limited context here on DL, with imperfect I would always translate with some additional words to indicate that it is imperfect: used to [verb], would [verb], etc.

March 6, 2014


Which came as a surprise

July 28, 2016


why not "fui" because it accepts "was" and not "used to be"

September 5, 2016


The concept that the imperfect means used to is highly flawed. Certainly the used to is never required. Actually the Spanish verb soler which means to be accustomed in the present is the best way to say used to in Spanish in the past tense. In English it is seldom required to say used to. Other clues give evidence that the action was repeated or took place over an indefinite period of time. You don't have to say used to if you say I lived in Mexico or I went to the beach every week. There are some times when you do in English however. In Spanish the use of the imperfect in itself indicates that the action is either repeated or occurs over an indefinite extended period of time.

September 5, 2016


Using soler is a great hack to get around the mess called the Spanish imperfect tense. Use soler in the imperfect + the infinitive. Try it. It's like the ir + infinitive hack to avoid the future tense.

September 15, 2016


Language hacks eh?? Tut tut!

January 31, 2017


Why is thia chapter so melodramatic?

March 4, 2016


Cant this sentence also mean "He used to say that she was his friend"

March 10, 2015


No, because of "yo." Without that pronoun, you would be correct.

August 14, 2015


How come 'would' is not allowed. 'He would say that I was his friend' was marked incorrect.

October 11, 2014


"He would say" would be "Él diria que no ...... " having the verb in the conditional. The sentence is written in the imperfect, so would isn't part of it. I suppose you could say Él habria dicho" "He would have said" which is the conditional perfect. But the sentence being in the imperfect has to be either "He said," or He used to say." depending on all the arguments listed farther up the thread. My grammer is sketchy in at least four languages, so don't take my comments as gospel.

October 11, 2014


I think you should be able to get away with "would" for the imperfect. From StudySpanish.com: The imperfect tense is used to refer to actions in the past that occurred repeatedly. From EnglishPage.com: "Would" is most commonly used to create conditional verb forms. It also serves as the past form of the modal verb "will." Additionally, "would" can indicate repetition in the past. So, effectively, there are four possibilities. "Used to say", "Said", "Was saying", and "Would say." No wonder DL sometimes doesn't have all permutations of correct answers in their database.

October 11, 2014


While I agree with your assessment of the use of would I think that it is more convenient for these exercises that Duo keep would to indicate the conditional. Although multiple translations are often possible, I think some of these little clues that you recognise the structure of the Spanish sentence. The used to however is problematic for the imperfect. Not only do we not always say used to, in some of the contexts of the imperfect there are some contexts where the imperfect is used where it would not be used. We could use a different option.

January 7, 2016


Yep. It's a problem DL must have often: When to include a valid English alternative and when to omit it due to possible confusion. Not accepting "on" when "sobre" means "on/about" because "sobre" also means "on/atop" is another example. Here though, I think I'd side with inclusion for "would" as the "I would ... when ..." form is common and does embody the imperfect. The "used to" form on the other hand is one of my pet hates. Sometimes I feel like I'm bashing my head against a wall trying to convince people that "used to" in these imperfect examples does not necessarily mean "used to but no longer." If it came down to a choice of omitting "would" or "used to" from the imperfect lesson lexicon I'd vote the latter every day of the week.

January 8, 2016


Hi jellonz, thank you for all your participation in these sentence discussions and the help you give. Toward the end of the tree it gets complicated enough with Duo not giving more of a variety of sentences and uses. There are perhaps millions who have finished up on the Spanish tree but offer no help in these last sections. So thanks again. Every once in a blue moon I see a moderator give aid but most of them don't.

I am on your team. I can't stand the constant translation of 'used to' in the imperfect tense, over and over. Would is a word which has other uses besides conditional (as you pointed out). The student needs to, and should learn what conditional means and not rely on the word 'could or would'. They are not the only two words which trigger the conditional.

January 8, 2016


"Would' is not always conditional. IE. When I was younger I used to visit my grandmother' OR, When I was younger, I would visit my grandmother.

Example of would in the conditional:The word 'would' is used many ways in English. Some examples of conditional:

I would give her a call if I could find her number. If I had the money I would buy a new car. You would lose weight if you did more exercise. If he got a new job he would probably make more money.

August 27, 2015


Indeed there are sentences in which DL accepts would to translate the imperfect tense. That helps complicate the entire issue for me.

December 8, 2015


Why not 'yo estaba' su amigo? Or 'estuvo' su amigo?

October 26, 2016


That's a two pronged question:

Why not "estar" instead of "ser" (estaba)? Relationships fall into characteristics rather than conditions (the "R" of the DOCTOR acronym) so a conjugation of "ser" is required.

Why not preterite instead of imperfect (estuve)? You can mix tenses with imperfect and preterite when the second clause interrupts the action described in the first, but in this sentence the description is just a continuation of what is introduced in the first clause so it should match the imperfect tense.

October 26, 2016


Él dijo que yo estaba su amigo?

January 28, 2017


There are two problems here. Using the preterite when have a used to (a repeated or routine action in the past) is incorrect. You must use the imperfect. The preterite is for past single actions with a clear beginning and ending.


The other problem is using Estar for a relationship. The acronym for the use of serv is DOCTOR. Description Occupation Characteristic Time Origin and Relationship. All relationships are spoken of with Ser. The artificial dichotomy set up by the popular temporary/permanent definition of the difference between those verbs causes more problems than it solves. The acronym for estar is PLACE Position, Location, Action, Condition, Emotion. So the only thing that really varies by temporary or permanent is when something might be a condition or emotion or might be characteristic. Estoy enojado I am angry. Soy enojado I am an angry person.

The only different translation that would really work would be Él decía que yo fuera su amigo. Reported speech can trigger the subjunctive. Using the subjunctive would indicate that you doubted or were unsure of the truth of the statement.

January 28, 2017


alright, thank you

January 30, 2017



April 23, 2017


How can a woman be "amigo"?

May 6, 2017


Unfortunately Duo doesn't have the gender match the speaker. Part of that may be just because the older exercises all had a woman's voice but they did have to model both forms.

May 6, 2017


What would be the word that denotes "used to".

July 2, 2017


You have touched on a sore point with me, because there really isn't one from my perspective. But let me present the official rationale that Duo (and many other Spanish language sites) uses. The issue here is that we have the verb in the imperfect. The preterite is the most common simple past tense in Spanish. The imperfect is used for a few different circumstances though.

  1. To set the scene in the past.

  2. To talk about something with an vague or ill defined start and end period. Some verbs are most commonly in the imperfect, especially verbs expressing thinking, feeling, etc. Others like say vivir might be either depending on the length or importance of the duration.

  3. To talk about things that routinely or repeatedly happened in the past. This is where people stick in the "used to" even though that is not a required element in the English. So Como niña nadaba cada fin de semana en el verano. As a child I swam (used to swim) every weekend in the summer.

The verb decir would not generally be used to set a scene. What is said is generally a main concern. It also is quite "finite" in other words if you are reporting what someone said there is never a vague time period Saying things happens quickly and would never require the imperfect for reason 2.

So if decía is used here it means that he said it more than once. This is case 3. But besides the fact that the used to is not required, there is another reason why using it is a bad choice. There is a verb soler im Spanish. It means to be accustomed to. In the conditional it means exactly used to. Solía esquiar en el invierno. So it can be confusing here too

July 2, 2017


What would make him say such an outrageous thing?

August 10, 2017


Maybe they broke the Friendzone?

September 22, 2017


I am probably going off at a tangent but I thought that DECIR triggered the subjunctive in the secondary (?) clause. Therefore I was expecting to see 'fuera' and not 'era". I would appreciate some advice. Thank you in advance..

September 22, 2017



March 6, 2018


Am i the only one who thought of percy jackson

May 1, 2018
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