spanish past tense conjugation

Part III: Conjugating Preterite Past Tense in Spanish

How to Conjugate Spanish Verbs Past Tense Preterite

In Spanish, past tense conjugation is important for describing situations and events that have already happened. When you learn these conjugations, you’ll be able to talk about much more! Read on as tutor Jason N. reviews…

 

Welcome to part III of my guide to conjugating Spanish verbs! So far, we’ve reviewed the basics of conjugating Spanish verbs, as well as how to conjugate stem-changers.

Next, I’m going to show you how to take your conjugation skills to an even higher level. This involves learning Spanish past tense conjugation, so that you aren’t restricted to only describing actions in present tense. Spanish has two types of past tenses, the preterite and the imperfect; we’ll start with Spanish preterite conjugations and review imperfect in another post.

Identical to the present tense, the preterite tense is a way to express the past in Spanish, and it also breaks down verbs into five different ending variants. By now you have probably realized how it works and subsequently can use the formula below that makes it so easy, it will become second nature. Here’s the recap again:

How to Conjugate Spanish Verbs

How to Conjugate –ar Verbs in the Preterite Tense

As we have already used the example of the Spanish verb mirar (to watch), let’s stick with the same example:

– Shave off the -ar ending
– If you are referring to Yo or ‘I,’ add the letter é to end the conjugated verb, forming miré.
– If you are referring to  or ‘you,’ use the ending –aste, to form miraste.
– If you are referring to él or ella or ‘he’ or ‘she,’ use the ending –ó to form miró.
– If you are referring to nosotros or ‘we,’ use the ending –amos to form miramos. (Yes, this is the same as present tense!)
– If you are referring to ellos or ‘they,’ use the ending –aron, to form miraron.

How to Conjugate -er Verbs in the Preterite Tense

Let’s take comer (to eat), for example:

– Shave off the -er ending
– ‘Yo’ uses the ending –í, (instead of é) to form comí.
– If you are referring to  or ‘you,’ use the ending –iste, to form comiste.
– If you are referring to él or ella or ‘he’ or ‘she,’ use the ending –, to form comió.
– If you are referring to nosotros or ‘we,’ use the ending –imos, to form comimos.
– If you are referring to ellos or ‘they,’ use the ending –ieron, to form comieron.

How to Conjugate -ir Verbs in the Preterite Tense

Conjugating -ir verbs shares the same rules with conjugating -er verbs. See the following charts of key preterite verb conjugations:

Mirar (to watch):
Yo miré
Tú miraste
Él/Ella/Usted miró
Nosotros miramos
Ellas/Ellos/Ustedes miraron

Comer (to eat):
Yo comí
Tú comiste
Él/Ella/Usted comió
Nosotros comimos
Ellas/Ellos/Ustedes comieron

Vivir (to live):
Yo viví
Tú viviste
Él/Ella/Usted vivió
Nosotros vivimos
Ellas/Ellos/Ustedes vivieron

Ready for some Spanish past tense conjugation practice? Conjugate the following:

Spanish Conjugation Chart - Preterite

What About the “Dirty Dozen?”

There are 12 core verbs in Spanish that have irregular past tense conjugations in the preterite tense. Fortunately their main endings are similar to what we’ve already learned in this post: –é, –iste, , –imos, –isteis, –ieron/*eron. Here they are:

Spanish Dirty Dozen - Irregular Past Tense Conjugations

Here’s estar as an example:

Estar (to be):
Yo estuve
Tú estuviste
Él/Ella/Usted estuvo
Nosotros estuvimos
Ellas/Ellos/Ustedes estuvieron

Not too difficult, right? As always, I recommend a Spanish tutor to help you work your way to being able to discussing events in the past tense adeptly.

Jason N width=Post Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here! 

Photo by John Loo

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2 replies
  1. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    I would like to mention that the endings mentioned on the bottom of the “Dirty Dozen” poster do not require acute accent marks on the -e or the -o.

    Thank you for writing this helpfully informative article. You rock!

    Reply

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