Introduction to the Preterite
Spanish has another past tense called the
You may have noticed that the
The first- and third-person conjugations of regular verbs in the preterite all have an accent mark on the last vowel. Don't get lazy and leave it off! This little accent makes a big difference between, for example, habló (he, she, you spoke) and hablo (I speak).
Most verbs with stem changes in the present tense are completely regular in the preterite. For example, the stem-changing verb
Practice: Regular Preterite
Before we go any further, let's practice what you've learned about the regular preterite conjugations. Complete each of the following sentences with the preterite of the verb in parentheses. Then check your work in Appendix D.
Alberto__________ (levantarse) a las siete,__________ (bañarse) y__________ (desayunar) antes de ir al trabajo. Yo__________ (ver) a Alberto a las nueve y nosotros__________ (tomar) un café. Alberto y sus colegas__________ (hablar) varias horas sobre un problema. Finalmente__________ (decidir) votar por una solución. ¿Por qué__________ (llegar) tú tarde al trabajo ayer? ¿__________ (comer) con Alberto después de la reunión? Yo__________ (salir) con Eliana y ella me__________ (llevar) a un restaurante salvadoreño muy bueno.
Preterite Stem and Spelling Changes
Remember that we said most stem-changing verbs were regular in the preterite? Well, a few stem-changers have special stem changes in the preter-ite. These vowel changes occur only in the third-person singular and plural:
Additionally, verbs that end in
The reason for the spelling change is obvious for
A Few Irregular Preterite Verbs: Ser, Ir, Hacer, Estar, Tener
No verb tense in Spanish is complete without some irregular verbs, and the preterite tense actually has quite a few. The good news is that many of the irregular preterites fall into categories of similar irregularities. Let's start with five of the most common irregular verbs:
The preterite of the expression hay is hubo. To say “There was a cat” or “There were some cats,” for example, you would say: Hubo un gato or Hubo unos gatos. It would be more common, however, to use the imperfect: había.
Let's review some of the unique features of these irregular conjugations. First, in contrast with the regular forms, there is no accent mark on the first- or third-person singular conjugation in the irregulars. Next,
First- and third-person singular conjugations are without accents.
You'll learn more irregular preterite in future chapters. Some of them fall into these same categories; some are in categories all their own. Stay tuned!
The third-person singular conjugation of hacer in the preterite is spelled with a
Listen to Track 41 and answer the questions using the preterite. (The text is not given here because this is meant to be a more challenging exercise.)You can find a translation of each question as well as a sample answer in Appendix D.
A great way to get more practice with the preterite is to keep a journal. Tuck a small spiral notebook in your pocket or purse and jot down what you, your friends, family, and colleagues did throughout the day. If you don't know the verb in Spanish, write it down in English and then look it up. Do this for about a week and you'll know more verbs in the preterite than you could ever imagine!