Spanish Regular Preterit Tense

Overview

The Spanish past tense or preterite tense (Pretérito) is used when talking about an event that took place in the past at a specific time, or one that was completed.

Bringing up the past

Today we are going to learn about a new tense in Spanish – the PRETERIT TENSE. This tense us used to express actions that have been completed at a specific point in the PAST.  

*NOTE: You will sometimes see this tense spelled “Preterite” with an -e on the end. This is the British English spelling.

When do we use the PRETERIT TENSE?

Because there are multiple tenses used to express the PAST TENSE in Spanish, let’s go over specific instances in which the PRETERIT TENSE should be used:

  1. Events with a specific start and end. I brushed my teeth. We rode a train yesterday. She sent me the email.  
  2. Events with specific times and dates. We got home at 10:00. I studied for the test last night for 3 hours.  
  3. Sequential events.

       I got up, took a shower, then left for work.

       He chopped the onion, cut the tomato then mixed them together.

What are the PRETERIT TENSE ENDINGS?

In the PRETERIT TENSE we only have two sets of endings! We conjugate these verbs just like our present tense regular verbs:

  1. Chop off infinitive verb ending (-ar, -er, -ir)
  2. Determine subject of the sentence
  3. Add new ending based on the subject of the sentence

See the tables below for the endings to use with the PRETERIT TENSE:

-AR VERB ENDINGS

-amos
-aste-asteis
-aron


-ER/-IR VERB ENDINGS

-imos
-iste-isteis
-ió-ieron

*NOTE: The accents used in the 1st person and 3rd person are IMPERATIVE to this conjugation. 

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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.