Learning how to conjugate ser in the preterite tense can be a little confusing for students for two reasons. And they are that –
The first reason shouldn’t come as a surprise to most students who have encountered ‘ser‘ when studying conjugations in other tenses as it is one of the most irregular verbs in Spanish, but the degree of irregularity in the preterite still surprises many of them.
The second reason is generally the most confusing aspect of ‘ser‘ in the preterite tense as the question that is often asked is whether it means ‘was’ or ‘went’?
Once explained however, the confusion is short lived. Although, before you are enlightened further we should look at how ser is conjugated in the preterite first of all!
The Preterite Form of Ser (…and Ir!)
- fui – I was
- fuiste – you was
- fue – he was
- fuimos – we were
- fuisteis – you were
- fueron – they were
Now that you have been shown the conjugation above that is used for both ‘ser‘ and ‘ir‘, I should perhaps explain how you can tell whether it is ‘was’ or ‘went’ that is being used.
All you need do is simply listen to, or read, the context in which the verb is being used!
Ella fue una mal mujer – which means, she was a bad woman.
Ella fue al mercado – which means, she went to the market
As you can see both sentences begin with the same conjugation but the context defines which verb is being used. I mean, it would make no sense what so ever to say ‘she went a bad woman’ or ‘she was to the market’ now…would it?