Spanish Irregular Past Tense Verbs

Overview

The Spanish preterit tense is used to describe actions completed at a specific point in the past; whereas the imperfect is used to describe habitual or continuous actions in the past with no specific beginning or end.  Some verbs require small changes when being conjugated in this tense.

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Now that we have a good grasp on Regular Verbs in the Preterit Tense, it’s time to venture into the world of irregular verbs! Because some of the most common Spanish verbs actually have irregular conjugations in the Preterit Tense, it’s important that we become familiar with their rules and changes. Repetition and memorization are your tools for success with these verbs!

First, let’s take a look at the common IRREGULAR PRETERIT TENSE ENDINGS. All of these endings are used with the verbs in this first section of irregular Preterit verbs and none of them carry accents.

NOTE: We will see a few different endings in section 2.

-e-imos
-iste-isteis
-o-ieron

SECTION 1 – Irregular Stem Verbs

The following irregular Preterit verbs use the irregular Preterit endings from the chart above. Beside each verb is its irregular stem:

I Stem Verbs” – notice that these verbs have changed to having an “i” in the stem.

Hacer – Hic (note: él/ella/usted hizo)

Venir – Vin

Querer – Quis

U Stem Verbs” – notice that these verbs have changed to having an “u” in the stem.

Andar – Anduv

Caber – Cup

Estar – Estuv

Poder – Pud

Poner – Pus

Saber – Sup

Tener – Tuv

J Stem Verbs” – notice that these verbs have changed to having an “j” in the stem.

Conducir – Conduj

Decir – Dij

Producir – Produj

Traducir – Traduj

Traer – Traj

SECTION 2 – SER and IR

There are two verbs in the Preterit Tense that are extra irregular – SER (to be) and IR (to go). However, great news! These two verbs are conjugated the exact same way in the Preterit Tense. But, how will you know the difference if they look and sound exactly the same you ask? We will know which verb is being used based on context. Let’s take a look at their conjugation below:

Fui – I went/I wasFuimos – We went/We were
Fuiste – You (informal) went/You (informal) wereFuisteis – You all went/were
Fue – He went/He was She went/She was You (formal) went/You wereFueron – They went/They were You all went/You all were

SECTION 3 – DAR and VER

Our two final irregular verbs in the Preterit Tense are VER and DAR. We are learning these two together because as you will see, their conjugations are almost identical. Let’s check them out below:

DAR (to give)

DiDimos
DisteDisteis
DioDieron

VER (to see)

ViVimos
VisteVisteis
VioVieron

SECTION 4- -CAR, -GAR, -ZAR Verbs

We’ve reached our final section about irregular verbs in the Preterit Tense! Our last section is all about verbs that end in either -car, -gar, or -zar. These verbs require a spell change when they are used ONLY IN THE YO form. Let’s check out these ending spell changes below:

CAR verbs will change to –qué in the YO FORM ONLY (tocar –> yo toqué)

GAR verbs will change to –gué in the YO FORM ONLY (pagar –> yo pagué)

ZAR verbs will change to –cé in the YO FORM ONLY (comenzar –> yo comencé)

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

Writing:
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
Reading:
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
Listening:
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.