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Preterite Tense Spanish Lesson
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Lesson 11: Assignment

Studying the Preterite Tense to Say Things in the Past

to cut in Spanish

Verbs Again!

One of the Two Past Tenses — The Preterite!

So much talk over what we will  learn, now let's actually learn something! In this lesson we are going to learn the Spanish preterite tense. Remember, the preterite tense is just a fancy name for one of the two past tenses (the more simple, important, one that says something is completed and done with.)

Before we get to learn how to say things that happened in the past, let's study these word lists because we will be using these words to study from in this lesson.

last night

Study Lesson 11 Spanish Vocabulary

When Do I Use the Preterite Tense?

The preterite tense is almost always used when a verb aims toward the past. For example:

"I won  last night."
Click to translate Yo gané anoche.

"He played  football last year."
Click to translate Él jugó fútbol el año pasado.

"You helped  me last week."
Click to translate Me ayudaste la semana pasada.

How the Spanish Past Tense Works

Conjugating verbs to reflect a past tense works the same way as regular Spanish verb conjugation. We studied this in lesson 3. The verb is the only thing that is changed, and it is the only thing that indicates a past action when you say things in the preterite tense. Simply "drop the "-ar" from the original verb itself and replace it with past tense suffix."

Past Tense Example Phrases

They showed...
Ellos mostraron...
I showed...
Yo mostré...
He won!
¡Él ganó!
He played with you
Él jugó contigo

Examples of the Past Tense in Spanish

"He takes out the garbage today."
Click to translate (Él saca la basura hoy.)

"He took out the garbage yesterday."
Click to translate (Él sacó la basura ayer.)

"You take out the garbage today."
Click to translate (Tú sacas la basura hoy.)

"You took out the garbage yesterday."
Click to translate (Tú sacaste la basura ayer.)

See how the verb changes when you convert it to past tense? The stem always stays the same, but the ending changes depending on who does the action and whether it is past or present tense.

Past Tense Endings for "-ar" Verbs

[stem] + é
[stem] + aste
[stem] + ó
[stem] + amos
[stem] + aron

*"We Eat" and "We Ate" are Said the Same

Did you notice that the past  "we" form of a verb (in its regular form) is the same as the present  "we" form? This might seem confusing, but the tense in a "we form" verb is entirely based on its context.

Past Tense for "-ir" and "-er" Verbs

[stem] + í
[stem] + íste
[stem] + ió
[stem] + imos
[stem] + ieron

Past Tense "-ir" and "-er" Verb Examples

Notice the similarity between the "-ar" verbs vs. "-ir" and "-er" verbs.

They broke...
Ellos rompieron
You lived
We ate...
Nosotros comimos...
They understood
Ellos entendieron
He lived with you
Él vivió contigo

Exceptions to Past Tense Verbs

What we just learned is a very useful technique for converting Spanish verbs to the past tense, however there are always exceptions and strange verbs. For example, the verb "decir" (to say) is converted to "dije" for (I said.) Just keep an eye out for verbs like these, because they tend to be misleading when you are interpreting Spanish.

Let's take some time to practice some regular  phrases and then we will look at some irregular phrases!

Regular (Keeps Original Stem)

I bought
Yo compré
You learned
Tú aprendiste
They spoke
Ellos hablaron
She wrote
Ella escribió
They ate
Ellos comieron
I understood
Yo entendí
I studied
Yo estudié
You studied
Tú estudiaste

Irregular (Stem Can Change)

I did
Yo hice
He did
Él hizo
I said
Yo dije
You said
Tú dijiste
You brought
Tú trajiste
I took out
Yo saqué
I played
Yo jugué
I wanted
Yo quise

big smile icon ¡Buen Trabajo! Tú terminaste esta lección. Esto es mucho para aprender. ¿Estás listo para comenzar la proxima cosa? !Vamos a aprender participios pasados en Español, pero primero vamos a tomar un examen!

Good job! You finished this lesson. This is a lot to learn. Are you ready to begin the next thing? We are going to learn past participles in Spanish, but first we are going to take a quiz!

Review the Spanish Preterite Tense »

Last updated: 2017

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