The was a recent thread on this listserv about preterit, imperfect, and perfect used with “nunca” in Spanish. Here’s some thoughts on aspect (which is what these are: they are all past tenses but of different aspects):
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Spanish, on p. 187, it has it that Harry
“Anduvo por la hierba humeda, reviviendo la ultima hora en su mente, en una feliz nebulosa.” This had been preceded by a description of how happy he felt after winning at quidditch. The English original has it:
“He walked over the damp grass, reliving the last hour in his head, which was a happy blur.” Both sentences end in a colon, followed by a description of several scenes in the stadium before Harry started his walk across the wet grass. Both end with Harry reaching “the shed”, an end point.
Certainly the English, “He walked over the wet grass, reliving….” points to the imperfect, but here I think the translator (a Peninsular named ) caught the sense Rowling was conveying that after all that, Harry started walking, i.e. putting us at the starting point of the action, thus calling for the preterit. This is reinforced by the following sentence saying Harry had reached the shed, i.e. the end point of the walk.
The problem for us English speakers (OK, I should speak for myself) is that “walked” can be either preterit (perfective) or imperfect (imperfective). But imagine the sentence reading “He was walking over the wet grass………”; you would expect something to intervene, to interrupt the action, but he only completes the walk, arriving at the shed.
BTW, for those of you who know Russian, John Forsyth has a tremendous book called Aspect which analyzes hundreds of sentences like this in Russian.
Recently, someone took umbrage with my comparing Latin aspect with Spanish aspect (the question was whether the phrase “What day was it yesterday?” “It was Wednesday” would use “erat” [imperfect = Sp “era”] or “fuit” [perfect = Sp. “fue”[). When writing this, I thought about how Slavic aspect might differ from Spanish or Romance in general. For example, in Russian, a negative past action is in the perfective if it was attempted but it failed e.g. I called 911 but it was busy and in the imperfective if the action wasn’t even attempted e.g. I didn’t (bother to) call.
Then I thought of Spanish, a word like costar, to cost, in the past is in the perfective if you bought something and “it cost a lot” = costo’ mucho. But if it cost a lot and you didn’t buy it, you’d say “costaba mucho” (y no lo compre’). Something like that.
Of course, those knowing Spanish and/or Russian better than me can jump in here any time.