Spanish Preterite Tense – How to conjugate it

The Spanish Preterite Tense (“Pretérito Indefinido”) is one of the several past tenses used in Spanish.

It’s one of the tenses with the most complicated conjugation. The reason is there are many irregular verbs. But with practice and patience, you can do it! 🙂

We will divide the verbs into two categories:

1. Regular and almost-regular verbs: They will have a graphical accent AT LEAST on the first and third person singular (“yo” and “él”). With the exception of “ver” (to see), which is regular but has no accents. 

2. Very irregular verbs. With no accents, for any person!

Now we are going to study each category in detail:

1. First category: Regular and Almost-Regular Verbs

Remember! With accents at least on the persons “yo” and “él”. This category includes:

Regular Verbs

This is the conjugation of regular verbs in Preterite Tense: 

 HablarBeberPartir
yohablébebípartí
hablastebebistepartiste
élhablóbebpart
nosotroshablamosbebimospartimos
vosotroshablasteisbebisteispartisteis
elloshablaronbebieronpartieron

Some observations:

– Notice that regular verbs which end in “-er” and “-ir” conjugate in the same way, with the same endings. 

– Like we said, the first person singular (yo) and the third person singular (él), always have an accent (on the last vowel).

– But remember, there is one exception: “ver” is regular but doesn’t have any accents: vi, viste, vio, vimos, visteis, vieron.

 

Almost-Regular Verbs, but with a slight irregularity for the third persons

These are verbs that are conjugated adding the same endings as the regulars, but they also present a slight irregularity for the third persons singular and plural (“él” and “ellos”).

– For some verbs, that irregularity consists in that, in the stem, a vowel “e” becomes “i”. Some examples:

 PedirRepetirSentir
yopedírepetísentí
pedisterepetistesentiste
élpidrepitsint
nosotrospedimosrepetimossentimos
vosotrospedisteisrepetisteissentisteis
ellospidieronrepitieronsintieron

– Or, in the stem, a vowel “o” becomes “u”. Examples:

 DormirMorir
yodormímorí
dormistemoriste
éldurmmur
nosotrosdormimosmorimos
vosotrosdormisteismoristeis
ellosdurmieronmurieron

– And lastly, for other verbs, in the suffix, an “y” appears instead of the “i” (and for these verbs, ALL PERSONS except for the last one have an accent somewhere).

 CreerCaerLeer
yocreícaíleí
creístecaísteleíste
élcrecale
nosotroscreímoscaímosleímos
vosotroscreísteiscaísteisleísteis
elloscreyeroncayeronleyeron



2. Second category: Irregular Verbs

The verbs that are very irregular have no accents, on any person.

First we will see the verbs “dar”, “ser” and “ir”, which have very special conjugations, and then we will treat the others irregular as a group.

“Dar”

The verb “dar”, although it ends in “-ar”, conjugates with the endings of the verbs in “-er, -ir” (but with no accents):

 Dar
yodi
diste
éldio
nosotrosdimos
vosotrosdisteis
ellosdieron

“Ser”,  “Ir”

The verbs “Ser” (to be) and “Ir” (to go) have exactly the same conjugation in Preterite Tense. It seems pretty weird, but that’s the way it is:

 Ser / Ir
yofui
fuiste
élfue
nosotrosfuimos
vosotrosfuisteis
ellosfueron

Rest of Irregular verbs

The rest of very irregular verbs conjugate by using a new stem AND adding a particular collection of suffixes. You need to learn the new stem for each verb and then attach the right suffix for each person, following this table: 

VerbNew StemSuffix
Andaranduv--e
-iste
-o
-imos
-isteis
-ieron / *-eron
Estarestuv-
Hacerhic-
Poderpud-
Ponerpus-
Quererquis-
Sabersup-
Tenertuv-
Venirvin-
Decirdij-*
Producirproduj-*
Traducirtraduj-*
Traertraj-*

Notice the asterisk! For most of these irregulars, the suffix for the last person (“ellos”) is “ieron”. However, for verbs whose new stem ends in the letter “j”, the suffix for “ellos” is “eron”.

Here is the full conjugation of two of those verbs, to make sure you understand how it works. 

New StemFull conjugation
Ponerpus-puse, pusiste, puso, pusimos, pusisteis, pusieron
Decirdij-dije, dijiste, dijo, dijimos, dijisteis, dijeron

Ok, I understood the conjugation. But WHEN do we use the Preterite Tense?

To learn that, click here.

Or Click here to see all our Grammar Lessons.