The imperfect tense has many uses so both options work in different contexts. The first option might be something you tell someone directly.
"I thought she thought about me all the time." - Raul said sadly "She used to think about you. But no more!!" - Javier said scornfully
The second option would be used when setting the stage for something, for example in an instance where someone is telling a story.
"She was at home watching that movie you both like. She was thinking about you. Then came a knock at the door..."
This site explains it more http://www.studyspanish.com/lessons/pretimp4.htm
Hope this helps!!
But you just explained in more detail what krow10 said. We know there's a difference in English between - She used to think about you/She was thinking about you. How can we tell the difference in the Spanish - Ella pensaba en ti? If it is said to us without any more explanation or context?
Let's imagine I have an ex-girlfriend and she said after a few weeks of us breaking up - 'Pensaba en ti'. How am I meant to understand whether she used to think about me or she was thinking about me?
I guess maybe then it's better to use - He estado pensando en ti..?
Thanks for any more info :)
In this instance there is no right or wrong translation because there is no context. In your example about the girlfriend ideally her following sentences would clarify which fits better or she might not give any more context with the intention of leaving you in limbo O.o
"He estado pensando en ti" translates to "I have been thinking about you" which to me implies the action has happened recently as opposed to "I used to think of you" which could be really far in the past. I think those aren't really interchangeable but in your girlfriend example it would be more clear as a stand alone sentence if she wants to imply she was thinking recently. That is my opinion at least.
I hope that further clarifies rather than confuses :)
Yes. I was thinking of either the present perfect or the present perfect progressive before I got.to the point where you suggested the latter. The fact of the matter is that pensar is more frequently in the imperfect that many other verbs as there isn't often a clear start or stop to the the action which is the mark of the preterite. Either verbs where the action.happened over an unspecified period or repeated actions in the past use the imperfect, as well as when you are setting the scene. Although we sometimes use used to for those long term or repeated actions in English we often don't. The context generally makes it clear and in the situation you described she would no doubt use all possible verbal clues to ger meaning.
In Spanish, "used to" is best translated as "solía (soler):
"She used to think about you" = "Ella solía pensar en tí"
The imperfect tense, on the other hand, more than describing a habit, it decribes a (durable) situation in the past:
"She was thinking about you" = "Ella pensaba/estaba pensando en tí"
I don't disagree with you at all. And I think a durable situation in the past is a great way to describe the use of the imperfect with verbs like pensar, creer, sentir, querer and other verbs which are comfortable in the imperfect. These are the verbs for which Duo's use of the used to is absolutely counter productive. But there are the other simple action verbs for which there is some purpose (although still questionable) for the use of used to. Verbs like hablar, correr, lavar are never really durable situations in the past. These verbs are much less commonly used in the imperfect. Both sets of verbs are used in the imperfect to set the scene in the past, of course. This is most often translated as the past progressive. But if I were to say Hablaba con el público, that would imply serial events in the past. Spanish has the ability to convey that simply by the tense. In English something has to be added, either in the context or the sentence itself, to convey that repetitive nature. It could be I often (or occasionally, etc) spoke to the public. In this case used to does imply the multiple nature, but I still think it sends the wrong message. But while English speakers don't need extra clues to assume a durable situation with verbs like pensar or querer, they won't assume a repetitive situation with verbs like hablar or correr without an extra clue. I always describe the imperfect as having three uses, but actually for any one verb, there are only two. But the difference between a durable situation and a serial situation is inherent in the verb.
Of all the things that can mislead subtly in a foreign language, prepositions tend to be the worst. We hardly notice them half the time. But any common verb probably has mutiple verb+preposition phrases with different meaning (sit up, sit down, sit in, sit around, sit through, sit on, push up, push through, push on) Some of these make more "sense" than others, but you can't assume that they translate. Most of the time it will just sound strange to the native speaker, but since these verb+preposition constructions often change the meaning you might be saying something entirely different from what you expect.
I know this has come up elsewhere on the past imperfect lesson, but English often uses "would" to indicate habitual past actions. In this case especially, the most natural translation I think is "She would think of you" where this is understood contextually not to be a conditional but to indicated that she used to regularly think of you. For example, while she was traveling the world she would think of you.
Duo uses phrases like used to as translations for the imperfect because it translates both ways consistently. Often the best translation for the imperfect is the simple past tense in English for habitual past actions or the present or past present progressive for setting the scene. Both translations are generally accepted by Duo though. I wouldn't be surprised if there are translations with would that are not conditional, but certainly many if not most are, even if the condition was implied. Pensaría en ti, cuando estaba en México. So Duo likes to keep the would constructions solely for the conditional as it again translates back and forth consistently. It is the same for the progressive tenses. In other languages without progressive or continuous forms, Duo encourages the present progressive in English as translation for the present in that language. In reality the present progressive is a common if not the most common translation for the present of other languages, but to signal what they want as a translation, Duo likes to use it only for the present progressive in Spanish. These are all somewhat limited views, but if you recognize the limitations of the Duo platform, it makes sense. It helps you recognize what exactly is happening in the Spanish.
Te is the form for either a direct object or an indirect object. As you know, these forms either precede the verb or verb phrase or can be attached to the end of an infinitive and a couple of other verb forms. Ti (and mi) is used after a preposition. There is also the special case of conmigo and contigo, but you will see many sentences like A ti te gusta el trabajo or a mi tampoco.
Here's a link about the various tú forms http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/133127/what-is-the-difference-between-te-tu-ti-
Ti is the form used as the object of most prepositions. The exception is contigo which is a special form like conmigo. Here is a link that explains the various forms of tu
Good memory gimmicks. Those are the translation most commonly used and you have found the cognates. But you do have to remember that Spanish tends to use pensar more strictly than we do. We tend to say I think where a Spanish speaker would say Creo. Pensar is used solely for mental processes.
Absolutely. These are things that often do not have a definitive start and end in the past so they are most often spoken of in the imperfect. There is something else I have noticed but never have seen discussed. The verbs which are most comfortable in the imperfect past in Spanish are the same ones we generally use the present tense for in English instead of the present progressive. In English we generally use the present progressive for current action. I am working means you are doing it now while I work most often proceeds a general or repetitive action like I work on Saturday. But while I am thinking or I am feeling is not incorrect (although I am knowing may be), for the most part we sat I think I feel or I know. This seems somehow related to the use of the imperfect. As I said I have never heard this discussed, but it had helped me use the imperfect correctly.