Spanish Preterite Verbs with Irregular Meanings

Beginner Spanish - Level A1


In a previous unit we talked about Irregular Verbs in the Preterit Tense in Spanish and today we will take things one step further from irregular verbs to irregular meanings.

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Spanish Preterit Verbs with Irregular Meanings

In our last lesson we talked about Irregular Verbs in the Preterit Tense in Spanish and today we will take things one step further from irregular verbs to irregular meanings. We have a number of verbs in Spanish that change meaning when they are used in the Preterit Tense versus the Imperfect Tense (lesson to come!). Let’s check them out…

Grammar deep dive: As we talk about these verbs and their meaning changes, remember that these changes are really about the perspective of the tense being used, not the actual definition of the verb changing.


Original Meaning

Preterit Tense Meaning


To know

To meet


To be

To become


To be able to

To manage

Querer / No querer

To want / Not to want

To try / To refuse


To know

To find out (information)


To have

To receive


Let’s take a look at a few of these verbs in action:


Present: Yo conozco a Daniel. – I know Daniel.

Preterit: Yo conocí a Daniel. – I met Daniel.


Present: Nosotros queremos un pastel con fresas. – We want a cake with strawberries.

Preterit: Nosotros quisimos un pastel con fresas. – We tried a cake with strawberries.


Present: Ella sabe que él es de Argentina. – She knows that he is from Argentina.

Preterit: Ella supo que él es de Argentina. – She found out that he is from Argentina. 

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Let’s practice!

In part 1, choose the best answer. In part 2, provide the correct meaning of the verbs used. Once you are finished, be sure to click READ MORE to view the answer key!


1. T/F: Some verbs change meaning in different tenses.

2. The verb ESTAR means was in the Preterit Tense.

3. To say you met someone, you use the verb conocer in the Preterit Tense.



4. Ella conció a su esposo en 2010.

5. Yo tuve $5 ayer.

6. Nosotros no pudimos oír el mensaje en la tienda.

7. Los perros no quisieron el bistec.

8. ¿Cuándo supiste que no hay monstruos debajo de tu cama?



Answer key: 1. T, 2. F, 3. T, 4. Met, 5. Received, 6. Did not manage, 7. Refused, 8. Found out 

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