Archive for spanish past tense

Spanish Preterite – How to Conjugate the Preterite Tense in Spanish

The Spanish preterite is a past tense consisting of one word, compared with the Perfect which has two, the auxiliary verb and the past participle, here are the essential aspects of the Spanish preterite.

  • It is firstly a tense in one word both in Spanish and in English
  • It describes a single, completed action in the past: for example, ‘I said‘, ‘Paul spoke‘, ‘we ate‘ and so on.
  • What it is important to remember is it can be used in conversation just as well as in the narrative, which is the part outside the dialogue describing past actions.

Here are the endings for the Spanish preterite for each of the three groups of verbs; ar, er and ir.

Hablarto speak

yo hablé I spoke
hablaste You spoke
él, ella, usted habló He/She/You spoke
nosotros/as hablamos We spoke
vosotros/as hablastais You spoke
ellos, ellas, ustedes hablaron They/You spoke

Comerto eat

yo comí I ate
comiste You ate
él, ella, usted com He/She/You ate
nosotros/as comimos We ate
vosotros/as comisteis You ate
ellos, ellas, ustedes comieron They/You ate

Vivirto live

yo viví I lived
viviste You lived
él, ella, usted viv He/She/You lived
nosotros/as vivimos We lived
vosotros/as vivisteis You lived
ellos, ellas, ustedes vivieron They/You lived

The biggest problem with learning the Spanish preterite is the large number of irregular verbs that must be mastered. The most important and most commonly used of these irregular verbs are dar, estar, haber, hacer, poder, poner, querer, saber, tener, venir, ser, ir and decir.

Learning each of the conjugations for each of these verbs is not going to be easy but… a verb training tool, such as the Verbarrator, will not only provide you with the best possible help but it will also enable you to learn verb conjugation so much faster than if you were using traditional methods of study.

Take your first step towards mastering Spanish verb conjugation and check out this Verbarrator review, and you will then see how you and your studies can benefit greatly from using it.

Irregular Past Tense Spanish Verbs – The Basics

Irregular Past Tense Spanish VerbsIt isn’t too long after starting to learn Spanish verb conjugation that a student encounters the Spanish past tenses. These Spanish past tenses are called the preterite and the imperfect and both are widely used and it is therefore extremely important to fully understand when to use each tense and how each is formed.

There are irregular Spanish verbs in both past tenses (surprise,surprise!), not too many in the imperfect, but the preterite does contain some of the most irregular conjugations of all the tenses, so be warned.

We will now take a look at each of these past tenses, explaining when they are used, regular formation for each of the verb groups and irregular verb variations.

The Imperfect Past Tense in Spanish

The imperfect tense is used to refer to actions in the past that occurred repeatedly such as,

  • I used to walk home every day – Caminaba cada día

It is also used to refer to actions in the past that happened over an extended period.

  •     I used to eat paella frequently – Comía frecuentemente paella

And for “setting the stage” for a past event.

  •     We were coming home when we saw Juan – Veníamos para casa cuando vimos a Juan

Non physical actions such as feelings and thoughts will also usually use the imperfect tense,

  •     Juan was feeling sick – Juan estaba enfermo

In Spanish there are two sets of regular verb endings for the imperfect tense, one is used for verbs ending in -ar and the other for verbs ending in -er and -ir, these endings rarely change even when used with irregular verbs and are as follows;

Enviar (to send)

  •     yo envi -aba (I was sending)
  •     tú envi -abas (you were sending)
  •     el/ella envi -aba (he/she was sending)
  •     nosotros envi -ábamos (we were sending)
  •     vosotros envi -abais (you were sending)
  •     ellos/ellas envi -aban (they were sending)

Tener (to have)

  •     yo ten -ía (I was having)
  •     tú ten -ías (you were having)
  •     el/ella ten -ía (he/she was having)
  •     nosotros ten -íamos (we were having)
  •     vosotros ten -íais (you were having)
  •     ellos/ellas ten -ían (they were having)

Decir (to say)

  •     yo dec -ía (I was saying)
  •     tú dec -ías (you were saying)
  •     el/ella dec -ía (he/she was saying)
  •     nosotros dec -íamos (we were saying)
  •     vosotros dec -íais (you were saying)
  •     ellos/ellas dec -ían (they were saying)

There are two exceptions to the regular pattern of the imperfect tense and they are the important verbs ‘ser‘ (to be) and ‘ir‘ (to go) which will both need to be thoroughly studied and they are conjugated as shown below;

Ser (to be)

  •     yo er -a (I was)
  •     tú er -as (you were)
  •     el/ella er -a (he/she was )
  •     nosotros ér -amos (we were)
  •     vosotros er -ais (you were)
  •     ellos/ellas er -an (they were)

Ir (to go)

  •     yo ib -a (I was going)
  •     tú ib -as (you were going)
  •     el/ella ib -a (he/she was going)
  •     nosotros íb -amos (we were going)
  •     vosotros ib -ais (you were going)
  •     ellos/ellas ib -an (they were going)

The Preterite Past Tense in Spanish

The preterite tense is used frequently and is used to describe past actions that are seen to be completed. As with the Imperfect tense the stem of the verb is used with the tense endings and, as with the imperfect, there are two sets of endings, one for -ar verbs and the other for -ir and -er verbs.

Enviar (to send)

  •     yo envi -é (I sent)
  •     tú envi -aste (you sent)
  •     el/ella envi -ó (he/she sent)
  •     nosotros envi -amos (we sent)
  •     vosotros envi -asteis (you sent)
  •     ellos/ellas envi -aron (they sent)

Coger (to take)

  •     yo cog -í (I took)
  •     tú cog -iste (you took)
  •     el/ella cog -ió (he/she took)
  •     nosotros cog -imos (we took)
  •     vosotros cog -isteis (you took)
  •     ellos/ellas cog -ieron (they took)

Salir (to leave)

  •     yo sal -í (I left)
  •     tú sal -iste (you left)
  •     el/ella sal -ió (he/she left)
  •     nosotros sal -imos (we left)
  •     vosotros sal -isteis (you left)
  •     ellos/ellas sal -ieron (they left)

Unlike the imperfect tense there are a number of verbs that have irregularities in the formation of the preterite tense and to list them all along with their many differences would be too big a job for this article.

The most commonly used irregular past tense verbs in the preterite tense are;

All of which are very different and will each need learning individually unfortunately!

Spanish Past Tense – The Difference Between Imperfect and Preterite

Spanish Past TenseThe Spanish past tense throws up a problem for many students and that is whether they should use the imperfect tense or the preterite?

In Spanish, the two simple past tenses that are predominantly used, are called the Imperfect and the Preterite and it is perfectly understandable for students, who are learning about past tenses for the first time, to be unsure as to which of these two tenses to use and when.

It goes without saying that both tenses are used to describe past actions or states but each is used differently and the following rules will hopefully clear up any confusion.

When to Use the Preterite

The preterite tense is used to express an action that was completed at some time in the past, listed here are some specific uses and examples:

When referring to a series of actions in the past:

  • Me desayuné, limpié la casa y me fui a la estación – I had breakfast, cleaned the house, and went to the station.

When referring to the beginning or the end of a past event:

  • La fiesta empezó a las diez – The party began at 10:00

When referring to things that are seen as being complete:

  • Dejó el trabajo hace un año – You left the job a year ago

When to Use the Imperfect

The imperfect tense expresses an action or state  that was ongoing during the past and if it is uncertain whether it has been completed. Specific uses and examples are listed below:

To explain an action that a person did in the past habitually:

  • Cuando estábamos en el colegio, jugábamos al fútbol todos los jueves. – When we were at school, we used to play football every Thursday

To refer to an action without making reference to an end or a beginning:

  •  Mi mujer tenía dolores de cabeza frecuentes – My wife had frequent headaches

When referring to actions that were taking place simultaneously in the past:

  •  Mi hijo miraba televisión y mi hija cantaba – My son was watching television and my daughter was singing

When describing physical, emotional or mental states or conditions:

  •  Estaba tan feliz que quería llorar – I was so happy that I wanted to cry

When referring to a past time:

  • Eran las ocho y media de la tarde – It was 8:30 p.m.
  • Era la una de la mañana – It was 1:00 a.m.

When describing an action or state that happened at some point in the past and that lasted for a certain amount of time and that happened prior to another past action.

  • Hacía todo el día que esperando cuando mi mujer llegó – I had been waiting all day when my when arrived

Hopefully, these guidelines will provide the clarity you need.