The Past Tense in Spanish: EL PRETÉRITO

preterito español preterite


The pretérito is a tense that we use to talk about things that happened in the past at a very specific point in time and had a specific duration:

  1. Specific moments in history:
  • Christopher Columbus discovered américa in 1492

2. Specific actions in a story

  • Last year I tried Chinese food for the first time

3. Actions that happened only once in the past

  • Yesterday your sister went to the supermarket

4. Actions that had a specific ending in the past

  • I lived in Colombia for 10 years

CUES: These words will help you identify the preterite:

  • ayer
  • el lunes pasado
  • la semana pasada
  • el mes pasado
  • el año pasado
  • en 1987
  • de repente



As usual, we take the 3 groups of verbs AR, ER, IR

AR Verbs

You drop the AR and add the corresponding endings. We are going to use the verb HABLAR as an example:

  • Yo habl-é
  • Tú habl-aste
  • Él habl-ó
  • Ella habl-ó
  • Nosotros habl-amos
  • Ustedes habl-aron
  • Ellos habl-aron
  • Ellas habl-aron

ER Verbs

Drop the ER and add the corresponding endings. We are going to use the verb COMER as an example:

  • Yo com-í
  • Tú com-iste
  • Él com-ió
  • Ella com-ió
  • Nosotros com-imos
  • Ustedes com-ieron
  • Ellos com-ieron
  • Ellas com-ieron

IR Verbs

Drop the IR and add the corresponding endings. We are going to use the verb VIVIR as an example:

  • Yo viv-í
  • Tú viv-iste
  • Él viv-ió
  • Ella viv-ío
  • Nosotros viv-imos
  • Ustedes viv-ieron
  • Ellos viv-ieron
  • Ellas viv-ieron


conjugation preterito en español


Ayer me levanté a las 8 de la mañana, comí unos sándwiches y tomé un jugo. Fui a la escuela y hablé con mis amigos. Por la tarde estudié en la biblioteca y corrí en el parque. Por la noche cené con mi familia y vi un poco de televisión.  A las 10 de la noche me acosté y me dormí.

(Yesterday I got up at 8 in the morning, I ate some sandwiches and I had a juice. I went to school and spoke with my friends. In the afternoon I studied in the library and ran in the park. At night I had dinner with my family and watched a bit of TV. At 10 o’clock I went to bed and fell asleep.)

NOTE: Notice how this story is describing specific actions that happened at a specific moment and had a specific ending.

NOTE2: Notice how the reflexive verbs follow the same rules in the past that in the present: Reflexive pronoun + verb conjugated (in pretérito)



irregulares preterito español

Notice that the verb SER and the verb IR are the same in the preterite.


  • Ayer fui al supermercado (Yesterday I went to the supermarket)
  • Yo fui buena estudiante en la escuela (I was a good student in school)
  • ¿Fuiste a la fiesta de María? (Did you go to Maria’s party?)
  • fuiste el que me llamó anoche (You were the one who called me last night)

Take a lesson about the PAST TENSE IN SPANISH

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  1. Ayer ellos (ayudar)….a ganar el partido
  2. Ustedes (cambiar)…el lugar de la fiesta
  3. Él (comprar)….un carro rojo el a
  4. Nosotros (hablar) ….. con la maestra
  5. El año pasado ella (aprender)…. mucho
  6. El viernes yo (bailar) …. toda la noche
  7.  Anoche tú (dormir) …. 8 horas
  8. Ayer (yo/conocer) a tu hermana
  9. Ella (nacer) en 1987
  10. ¿En dónde (dormir/tú) anoche?

Answers: ayudaron, cambiaron, compró, hablamos, aprendió, bailé, dormiste, conocí, nació, dormiste


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