Pretérito Indefinido – How to conjugate it

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 will do it 🙂

We will mainly divide them into two categories:

1. First category: those for which their Indefinido conjugation has an accent on the first and third person singular. This includes all regular verbs (with the exception of ver, which doesn’t have accents anywhere), and a set of almost regular verbs that have a change on their stem for the persons “he” and “they”.

2. Second category: those which don’t present any accents in Indefinido. This includes all the really irregular verbs.

1. First category: Accent on the first and third person singular

A lot of verbs in Indefinido will have an accent in the first person (yo) and the third singular (él). This includes all the regular verbs (except “ver”) and the verbs that are almost regular but present some particularity in the third persons singular and plural. Let’s start with the regular verbs.

Regular Verbs

For the regular verbs, notice that there is one conjugation for the verbs ending in  “-ar”, and another conjugation shared by the verbs ending in “-er” and “-ir”.

Observations:

– For regular verbs which end in “-er” and in “-ir” the declination starts always with the letter “i”.

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

– Like we have already said, “ver” is regular but don’t have any accents: vi, viste, vio, vimos, visteis, vieron.

 

Almost-Regular Verbs, but with some change in the third persons, both singular and plural

These are verbs that are conjugated like the regular ones we just saw, but they also have a slight change in the third persons, both singular and plural.

One possible change is that in the stem, a vowel “e” becomes “i”. Some examples:

The second possible change is that in the stem, a vowel “o” becomes “u”. Some examples:

And the third possible change, is that in the suffix, we have an “y” instead of an “i” (for these verbs, all persons except for the last one have an accent somewhere).

2. Second category: With no accents on any person – Irregulars

The verbs that are completely 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 thing with the verb “dar” is that, although it ends in “-ar”, it conjugates like the verbs in “-er, -ir” (but with no accents). Wich means the suffix for all persons starts with the letter “i”.

“Ser”,  “Ir”

The verbs “Ser” and “Ir” have exactly the same conjugation in Indefinido. That’s pretty weird, but it’s how it is.

Rest of irregular verbs

The rest of very irregular conjugate by changing their stem. You need to learn the particular stem for each verb, plus the set of suffixes that apply for all, according to this table: 

Notice the asterisk: For most of these irregulars, the suffix for the last person is “ieron”, but for the last four verbs, it’s “eron”.

Let’s conjugate two of these verbs fully, to make sure you understand how it works. 

poner (new stem = pus-):

yo puse, tú pusiste, él puso, nosotros pusimos, vosotros pusisteis, ellos pusieron.

decir (new stem = dij-*):

yo dije, tú dijiste, él dijo, nosotros dijimos, vosotros dijisteis, ellos dijeron.

Ok, I understood the conjugation. But WHEN do we use this tense?

To learn when to use it, click here.