What You Did — the Preterite
The preterite tense, el pretérito, is used to describe actions that occurred and were completed in the past:
Ernesto llegó al restaurante a las cinco.
Ernesto arrived at the restaurant at five.
Ya acabó la película.
The movie ended already.
Conocí a Eliana en una de las fiestas de Javier.
I met Eliana at one of Javier's parties.
For each of these sentences, the action is definite and refers to an event that happened at a particular time, not one that took place regularly. To distinguish preterite tense from other past tenses in Spanish, you might want to think of it as the concrete past, used to describe particular events and actions. (More on the differences between the preterite and the imperfect past is to follow later in the chapter.)
To conjugate verbs in the preterite, drop the infinitive ending and add the appropriate preterite ending. Note that -ER and -IR verbs share identical endings: