The Preterite Tense in Spanish. Actions that are completed, done & dusted. Finished.

I talked, I did talk.

The Spanish Preterite tense (or Spanish preterit) is a Spanish past tense, one of two simple tenses (as opposed to compound tenses) that the Spanish use to describe past actions.

Like I talked, I did talk. The action of talking is finished.

The preterite is just a fancy name for an action that is completed. Finished, done and dusted. Don't be put off by its technical sound. Treat the preterite tense as a word ending in the letters -ED.

... like talk-ED.

Some English examples of this past tense are:

  • I talked, I did talk.
  • Yo hablé (or just: hablé)

  • I walked, I did walk.
  • Yo anduve, (or just: anduve)

  • We ate, we did eat.
  • Nosotros comimos, (or just: comimos)

  • You went, you did go.
  • Tú fuiste, (or just fuiste)
    for the informal case involving one person.

  • Vosotros fuisteis (or just fuisteis)
    for the informal case involving two or more people.

  • Usted fue, (or just fue)
    for the formal/polite case involving one person.

  • Ustedes fueron, (or just fueron)
    for the formal/polite case involving two or more persons.

  • What happened? What did happen?
  • ¿Qué pasó?
These are examples of the Spanish preterite tense (preterito).

A key concept here to recognize it is use of word ending in the letters –ED in the preterite tense.

To learn the Spanish preterite tense, (preterito) and all the 16 verb tenses in Spanish, plus the imperatives, the gerunds takes quite a bit of work and dedication. There are no two ways about it.

The verbs are the hardest thing to learn in Spanish.

Add in the other verbal phrases such as the forms like for example:

  1. I was going to eat: Yo iba a comer.

  2. I am eating: Yo estoy comiendo

  3. I had been eating: Yo habiá estado comiendo.

  4. I have been eating: Yo he estado comiendo.

  5. I was eating: Yo estaba comiendo.

  6. I am going to eat: Voy a comer.

This makes about 23 verbs and verb forms to learn in Spanish!

OK, they do follow patterns, but there are dozens of exceptions to the rules, and lots of irregulars.

Of course the irregulars often happen with the common words that you really need to know!

You can try and memorize all the patterns, thousands do!

But wouldn’t it be great to find a course that gave you a step by step walk through the learning Spanish verbs, in all its forms, including the preterite tense (preterito), with easy and fun ways to remember lots of the main rules and patterns?

With cartoons and pictures to remind you of the rules, the irregulars, and with easy-to-remember methods of remembering Spanish verb patterns for 90% of all occasions! Such cutting edge courses are new but they do exist.

To find out more click here.

It is done by giving you a way to remember each of the main concepts, with a funny drawing that will help your recall.


Spanish Preterite Tense (preterito)for AR verbs

We’ll cover the main points about the Spanish preterite tense.

To form the Spanish preterite tense (preterito) we follow some rules.

Then later we need to look at the irregular verbs in the preterite tense.

AR Verbs: Preterite Tense

For the Spanish Preterite Tense of the 'AR' family of Spanish verbs, the ‘-AR’ words take the STEM and add some new endings.

(Remember the Stem of the Spanish verb is that bit before the –AR, ER or –IR ending . . .

. . . so the stem of the Spanish verb hablar (to talk) is the 'habl-' bit, the stem of the Spanish verb comer (to eat) is the 'com-' bit.


General pattern for all regular AR verbs in the Spanish preterite tense (preterito).

STEM + é-aste-ó-amos-asteis-aron


Yo! I talked! I did talk.

Ending patterns for 'I' in the preterite (-ED) for AR verbsSTEM + é

STEM + é.

I talked: yo hablé

So we have taken the STEM of hablar, drop the –AR ending and add the letter é.


You talked, You did talk

Ending patterns for 'you' informal, singular and plural, in the preterite tense for AR verbs.

for tú take the:

STEM + ‘aste’

for vosotros and vosotras take the:

STEM + ‘asteis’

Note that the tú case and the vosotros ending are similar with tú being '-aste and the vosotros ending being '-asteis'.

you talked (informal singular):tú hablaste (STEM of ‘habl-’ + aste).

you talked (informal plural):vosotros hablasteis. (STEM of ‘habl-’ + asteis).


He, she, it, You (formal singular) talked, He, she, it, You (formal singular) did talk

Ending patterns for 'he, she, it and you (formal singular)' in the preterite (-ED) for AR verbs.

STEM + ó

Be careful of this little trap with this form of the preterite tense in Spanish.

I talk compared to he talked: hablo, hablóyo hablo is I talked . . .but . . .él, ella, Usted habló is he, she, it or you talked.

And remember Spanish speakers drop the yo and él, ella, Usted bits off making it tricky for learners!

Notice how trickily close the ending is to the yo ending in the present tense. Hablo means I talk, habló means he, she, it or you (formal singular) talked. One to watch, differentiated by the accent on the 'o' which stretches the 'o' sound.

he, it talked (m)él habló: STEM + ó


We talked, we did talk

Ending patterns for 'we' in the preterite (-ED) for AR verbs:

STEM + amos.

GOTCHA ALERTNotice how this ending is exactly the same as the nosotros in the present for AR verbs.

we talked:nosotros hablamosSTEM + amos


They and you talked

Ending patterns for 'they and you (formal plural)' in the preterite (-ED) for AR verbs.

STEM + aron.

they joined, they did join (m):ellos juntaron

they shouted, they did shout (f):ellas gritaron


Some conjugated Spanish preterite tense examples of regular –AR verbs.

  • I closed, I did close:yo cerré

  • you closed, you did close (informal singular):tú cerraste

  • You showed, you did show (formal singular):Usted mostró

  • you showed, you did show (formal plural):Ustedes mostraron

  • you played, you did play (informal plural): vosotros jugasteis

  • he, it sang, he, it did sing:él cantó

  • she, it talked, she, it did talk:ella habló

  • we shouted, we did shout:nosotros gritamos

  • they joined, they did join (m):ellos juntaron

  • they shouted, they did shout (f):ellas gritaron

Here’s how they look when you drop the pronoun (the I, you, he, she, it, we or they bit)

. . . we’ll call it the abbreviated form.

  • I showed, I did show (abbrev): mostréyou closed, you did close (informal singular) (abbrev) : cerraste

  • you sang, you did sing (formal singular) (abbrev): canto

  • you showed, you did show (formal plural) (abbrev): mostraron

  • you played, you did play (informal plural) (abbrev):jugasteis

  • he, it sang, he, it did sing (abbrev):canto

  • she, it shouted, she, it did shout (abbrev):gritó

  • we joined, we did join (abbrev): juntamos

  • they sang, they did sing (m) (abbrev):cantaron

  • they closed (f) (abbrev):cerraron


Spanish Preterite Tense for ER and IR verbs

The ending patterns are different in the Spanish preterite tense for ER and IR verbs when compared to AR verbs.

STEM + í-iste-ió-imos-isteis-ieron

Ending patterns for 'I' in the preterite tense(-ED) for ER and IR verbs.

STEM + í

I died, I did die. yo morí. STEM + í

Ending patterns for 'you' informal, singular and plural, in the preterite tense (-ED words) for ER and IR verbs.

STEM + iste

and

STEM + isteis

Note that the tú case and the vosotros ending are similar with tú being '-iste' and the vosotros ending being '-isteis'.

you died, you did die (informal singular): tú moriste STEM of morir = mor + iste.

you died, you did die (informal plural): vosotros moristeis STEM of morir = mor + isteis

Ending patterns for 'he, she, it and you (formal singular)' in the preterite (-ED) for ER and IR verbs.

STEM + ió

he, it wrote (m): él escribió STEM of escribir = escrib + ió

Ending patterns for 'we' in the preterite (-ED) for ER and IR verbs.

STEM + imos.

Notice how this ending is exactly the same as the nosotros in the present for ER and IR verbs.

we wrote. nosotros escribimosSTEM of escribir = escrib + imos

Ending patterns for 'they and you (formal plural)' in the Spanish preterite tense (-ED) for ER and IR verbs.

STEM + ieron

they wrote, they did write: ellos escribieronSTEM of escribir = escrib + ieron

you wrote, you did write (formal plural):Ustedes escribieron


Irregular Verbs in the Spanish Preterite Tense

There are a number of verbs that are irregular in the Spanish preterite tense.

SER – (to be) IRREGULAR IN PRETERITE TENSE
fuifuimos
fuistefuisteis
fuefueron

Notice that the preterite for SER (to be) and for IR below is identical.

IR – (to go) IRREGULAR IN PRETERITE TENSE
fuifuimos
fuistefuisteis
fuefueron

DAR - (to give) IRREGULAR IN PRETERITE TENSE
didimos
distedisteis
diodieron

Irregular verbs in the Spanish preterite tense that change their STEM

Several follow the pattern of changing the stem but then adding the preterite tense endings:

CHANGED STEM + -e, -iste, -o, -imos, -isteis, -ieron .

Notice that with these irregulars in the preterite tense there are no accents on any of the vowels, unlike the regular preterits!

hacer (to do, make) the stem changes in the preterite tense to hic-.
hice, hiciste, hizo (changes from ‘c’ to ‘z’),hicimos, hicisteis, hicieron.

estar the stem changes in the preterite tense to estuv-.
estuve, estuviste, estuvo, estuvimos, estuvisteis, estuvieron.

tener the stem changes in the preterite tense to tuv-
tuve, tuviste, tuvo, tuvimos, tuvisteis, tuvistieron

poder the stem changes in the preterite tense to pud-
pude, pudiste, pudo, pudimos, pudisteis, pudieron.

poner the stem changes in the preterite tense to pus-
puse, pusiste, puso, pusimos, pusisteis, pusieron.

querer the stem changes in the preterite tense to quis-
quise, quisiste, quiso, quisimos, quisisteis, quisieron

saber the stem changes in the preterite tense to sup-
supe, supiste, supo, supimos, supisteis, supieron.

venir the stem changes in the preterite tense to vin-
vine, viniste, vino, vinimos, vinisteis, vinieron

decir the stem changes in the preterite tense to dij-
dije, dijiste, dijo, dijimos, dijisteis, dijeron (note dijeron rather than dijieron)

traer the stem changes in the preterite tense to traj-
traje, trajiste, trajo, trajimos, trajisteis, trajeron. (note trajeron rather than trajieron).

More irregular preterite tense words – CAR-GAR-ZAR!

Verbs ending in –car, -gar and –zar have a change in the ‘yo’ case (first person singular or ‘I’) where the following changes occur in the preterite tense:

‘c’ changes in the preterite tense to ‘qu’ so that:
buscar becomes yo busqué - (search)
sacar becomes yo saqué - (take out)
sofocar becomes yo sofoqué – (choke, stifle, suffocate)

‘g’ changes in the preterite tense to ‘gu’ so that:
juzgar becomes juzgué – (judge)
pagar becomes yo pagué - (pay)
rogar becomes yo rogue – (pray, )

‘z’ changes in the preterite tense to ‘c’ so that:
bautizar becomes yo bauticé - (baptize)
curzar becomes yo crucé (cross)

Verbs with Two Unstressed Vowels: Irregular in the Preterite tense

Verbs with two vowels together that are not stressed have a change of spelling for the third person case in the singular (él, ella, Usted) and the plural (ellos, ellas, Ustedes).

  • creer becomes in the preterite tense creyó, creyeron (believe)

  • raer becomes in the preterite tense rayó, rayeron (scrape)

  • poseer becomes in the preterite tense poseyó, poseyeron (own, possess).

There they are, the basics of the preterite tense.

If you can remember all that great!

If you don't have a photographic memory but could use an easy, fun way of REMEMBERING these rules of the Spanish preterite tense (and any other Spanish verb tense) click on the link here.


To learn and REMEMBER the Preterite Tense and its rules, exceptions and all other Spanish verbs in an easy way using the techniques of the world's memory masters CLICK HERE now.



Learn Spanish Help. Copyright 2011.

The Spanish Preterite Tense. A free Spanish lesson.
If you spot any errors do let us know.

Transcity Properties Ltd, 32 Alverton, Great Linford, MK14 5EF, Bucks, United Kingdom

Custom Search