Spanish Preterite Conjugations

Learn about preterite in Spanish

Definition

The preterite or past simple is the past tense used in order to express an action completed at a definite time in the past.

When to use the preterite

Completed event at a specific point in the past. 

These actions have clear beginnings and ends. 

Examples:
  • Inés nació en Argentina.
    Ines was born in Argentina.
  • Estudié biología en la Universidad de Salamanca.
    I studied Biology in the University of Salamanca.

Specific times and dates in the past

These could be days, dates, periods of time, months, days of the week, etc.

Examples:
  • El año pasado compramos una casa.
    Last year we bought a house.
  • Su cumpleaños fue el 14 de noviembre.
    His birthday was on November 14th.

A series of events in the past

Past events that occurred in a sequence. 

Example:
  • Esta mañana me desperté, me duché, me vestí y desayuné.
    This morning I woke up, showered, got dressed and had breakfast.

How to form the preterite

Preterite for regular verbs ending in -ar

The preterite of regular -ar verbs is formed by dropping the infinitive ending and adding the preterite ending that matches with the subject.

Subject Pronoun Preterite Ending Hablar (to talk)
yo hablé
-aste hablaste
él, ella, usted habló
nosotros, nosotras -amos hablamos
vosotros, vosotras -asteis hablasteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes -aron hablaron
Examples:
  • Ayer hablé dos horas con mi abuela.
    I spoke for two hours with my grandmother yesterday. 

Preterite for regular verbs ending in -er and -ir

The preterite of regular -er and -ir verbs is formed by dropping the infinitive ending and adding the preterite ending that matches with the subject.

Subject Pronoun Ending Comer (to eat) Vivir (to live)
Yo comí viví
-iste comiste viviste
él, ella, usted -ió comió vivió
nosotros, nosotras -imos comimos vivimos
vosotros, vosotras -isteis comisteis vivisteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes -ieron comieron vivieron
Examples:
  • Comimos demasiado en el picnic la semana pasada.
    We ate too much at the picnic last week. 
  • ¿Cuánto tiempo viviste en Manchester?
    How long did you live in Manchester?

Preterite for Irregular verbs

Here are some commonly used irregular verbs in preterite. 

Subject pronoun Ir (to go) Ser (to be) Ver (to see) Dar (to give)
yo fui fui vi di
fuiste fuiste viste diste
él, ella, usted fue fue vio dio
nosotros, nosotras fuimos fuimos vimos dimos
vosotros, vosotras fuisteis fuisteis visteis disteis
ellos, ellas, ustedes fueron fueron vieron dieron
Examples:
  • ¿A dónde fueron ayer los estudiantes?
    Where did the students go yesterday?
  • Disculpa la tardanza, no vimos la hora.
    Sorry we’re late, we didn’t see the time.
  • Lola fue una excelente amiga. 
    Lola was an excelent friend. 

Related Lessons

Learn about preterite with Casa Spanish lessons.