I was thinking on the following example:

  1. I would imagine myself doing this.
  2. I imagined myself doing this.

If I said 1 without a structure like "When I was a child, I would imagine (...)," would the speaker understand me I'm talking about as if I used the past tense I imagined?

  • What makes #1 a little strange is that you're revealing something that happened on a regular basis relatively long ago. Without some sort of context, the listener might be thrown off by the slightly more complex idea reflected in the less simple of the two tenses. Without any temporal context, the question "When was that?" would certainly come to mind, and possibly the question "Why are you even telling me this?"
    – TimR
    Nov 15, 2015 at 17:24

1 Answer 1


The difference between these two is subtle, as you're right - they're fairly similar.

I would imagine myself doing this.

This sentence refers to an event happening in the past (likely multiple times) at a non-specific time. Basically, all we know is that it happened (multiple times), but we don't know when it started or when it finished.

This is the imperfect tense, which you can read about here.

I imagined myself doing this.

This is much more likely to be referencing a specific event. For example, I could say:

When I turned 8, I imagined myself becoming an astronaut!

At the specific time when you turned 8, you imagined that you would become an astronaut. It's a one-time event with a concrete starting and ending point.

This is regular preterite.

  • 1
    Thanks, I get the point. As long as you use would, it comes with no time frame.
    – Schwale
    Nov 17, 2015 at 14:42

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