Spanish past tense conjugations are necessary for describing situations and events that have already happened. Preterite endings are one of the basic building blocks of Spanish that are fundamental to any conversation. Once you learn these conjugations, you’ll be able to talk about so much more with friends and family!
Why Learn the Preterite Endings?
If you’ve learned the basics of verb conjugation in the present tense, you’ve probably realized how limited you are without knowing the past tense versions of the verbs. Trying to describe only what’s happening in the immediate present, without being able to explain what happened even five seconds ago, is nearly impossible! This reveals how important it is to learn Spanish past tense conjugations.
In this post, we’re going to take your verb conjugation skills to a higher level. This involves learning Spanish preterite endings, so that you aren’t restricted to only describing actions that are happening in the here-and-now.
How to Conjugate Verbs in the Spanish Preterite
Before we dive in, it’s important to note that there are two types of Spanish past tense conjugations: the preterite and the imperfect. Here, we’ll start with Spanish preterite conjugations and review the imperfect in a future post.
The Spanish preterite tense is a way to express the past, and it breaks down verbs into five different endings. Keep reading to learn how to change a verb into its past tense form by using preterite endings.
Preterite -AR Endings in Spanish Verbs
Here is an example using the Spanish verb mirar (to watch). First, shave off the -ar ending. Then…
- If you are referring to Yo or ‘I,’ add the letter é to end the conjugated verb, forming miré.
- If you are referring to Tú 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. (This is the same as present tense conjugation!)
- If you are referring to ellos or ‘they,’ use the ending –aron, to form miraron.
Conjugating -ER Verbs in the Spanish Preterite
Now let’s use comer (to eat), as an example. First, shave off the -er ending. Next…
- If you are referring to Yo or ‘I,’ use the ending –í, (instead of é) to form comí.
- If you are referring to Tú or ‘you,’ use the ending –iste, to form comiste.
- If you are referring to él or ella or ‘he’ or ‘she,’ use the ending –ió, 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.
Conjugating -IR Verbs in the Spanish Preterite
Conjugating -ir verbs shares the same rules as conjugating -er verbs. See the following chart as an example.
Vivir (to live):
SEE ALSO: 75 Most Helpful Spanish Cognates
Ready for some Spanish past tense conjugation practice? Fill out the following chart:
12 Irregular Spanish Preterite Endings
There are 12 core verbs in Spanish that have irregular past tense conjugations in the preterite tense. Yes, that means that you’ll need to commit each irregular verb conjugation to memory. Fortunately, their main endings are similar to what we’ve already learned in this post: –é, –iste, -ó, –imos, –isteis, –ieron/*eron. Below are the 12 verbs, also known as “the dirty dozen.”
Let’s conjugate estar as an example:
Estar (to be):
Now that you know how to conjugate Spanish past tense verbs, you’re one step closer to becoming fluent in Spanish. With both present and past tense verb conjugations under your belt, the future tense will be no problem! You can return to this guide whenever you need a refresher on Spanish past tense conjugations and preterite endings.
While resources such as this one are important for getting down the nuts and bolts of Spanish, working with a Spanish tutor is a sure-fire way to maximize your potential with the language. Outside of total immersion in a Spanish-speaking country, personalized lessons are the best way to get the conversational practice you need to become fluent.
Online Spanish classes are also a great way to work on your skills and make new friends. The convenience of an online classroom allows you to build communication skills, no matter where you are! Before you know it, you’ll be using verbs with preterite endings in everyday Spanish conversations.
Remember, the formula for learning a language is simple: The more you speak, study, and listen to Spanish, the better your conversational skills will become. Buena suerte!