Intermediate Sample – Verbs in the Preterite Tense

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LECCIÓN 2  / Intermediate


The preterite is a past tense. It describes actions or events that occurred prior to the present.
The preterite is used to describe completed actions, ones with a clear beginning or ending point. Therefore, whenever you tell how long something was being done, use the preterite.

Compraste muchos tomates en la tienda.
You bought many tomatoes in the store.
El camarero bilingüe le sirvió mariscos a Penélope Cruz con una cuchara.
The bilingual waiter served shellfish to Penélope Cruz with a spoon.
Apagué las luces al salir de la cantina.
I turned off the lights upon leaving the bar.
Pero papá, ¡sólo condujimos el coche veinte minutos!
But Dad, we only drove the car for twenty minutes!
Alabama ganó el campeonato de fútbol americano en 2016.
Alabama won the football championship in 2016.
How do we form the preterite?
1. Regular verbs
Here are the conjugations for all regular verbs:

Note: There are accent marks only on the 1 st person and 3rd person singular forms.

1. Compare the and vosotros forms. Just add an
“-is” to the form and you have vosotros!

2. Did you notice that the preterite of –ER and –IR
verbs are identical?

Diego Velázquez pintó muchos cuadros

Diego Velázquez painted many impressive
Ayer no entendí nada en mi clase de

Yesterday I didn’t understand anything in my
astrology class.
Subimos a la torre del Alcázar de Segovia para ver el fantástico paisaje de Castilla.
We climbed up to the tower of the Alcázar of
Segovia to see the fantastic view of Castile.
Conocí a Mariano Rajoy cerca de su oficina en Madrid.
I met Mariano Rajoy near his office in Madrid.
Anoche sólo pasamos una hora en la biblioteca.
Last night we spent only an hour in the library.
Vosotros llegasteis tarde a la película.
You all arrived late to the movie.
What happens to stem-changing verbs in the preterite?
2. “Boot” verbs
a. -AR and -ER “boot” verbs

These verbs are completely regular; there is no
stem-change at all in the preterite!

El policía no encontró nada en mi mochila.
The policeman found nothing in my backpack.
Jaime Camil y Albita volvieron al escenario después de los aplausos.
Jaime Camil and Albita returned to the stage
after the applause.
Scrooge contó todo su dinero varias veces.
Scrooge counted all his money several times.
b. -IR “boot” verbs

These verbs have a special pattern. It’s in the 3rd person singular and plural only that changes occur:
o u and e i.

Note: It is only in the “sole” of the boot where changes occur! You might consider the look here to be like that of a slipper instead.

Emilio le sirvió café de su cafetera nueva a Gloria.
Emilio served coffee from his new coffee maker to Gloria.
Mis hermanos celosos me mintieron anoche.
My jealous siblings lied to me last night.
La candidata pidió paciencia cuando habló con la prensa.
The candidate asked for patience when she spoke with the press.
La chica durmió un par de horas en la casita* de su abuelito.*
The girl slept a few hours in the little house of her grandpa.

*Do you remember that the ending “-ita/-ito” can be used with nouns to signal a diminutive size or affection on the part of the speaker?

3. Spelling-changers
Just as some verbs in the present tense have spelling changes in certain conjugations to preserve the sound of the infinitive, so, too, do some verbs in the preterite.
Apagué las luces cuando oí un ruido afuera.
I turned off the lights when I heard a noise outside.
Comencé a hablar con mi novio después de ver NCIS: Los Ángeles.
I began to speak with my boyfriend after watching NCIS: Los Angeles.
Los fuertes vientos y la lluvia destruyeron las casas.
The strong winds and the rain destroyed the houses.
El chico perezoso no leyó el artículo.
The lazy boy didn’t read the article.
Toqué la guitarra media hora para mi novia.
I played the guitar for half an hour for my girlfriend.
These spelling-changers take the following forms in the preterite:

Note: The verb “oír” is similar to “uir” verbs: oí, oíste, oyó, oímos, oísteis, oyeron.

4. Super-irregulars

Certain verbs are irregular in the preterite tense. You will notice that there are no accent marks on any of these forms.

You need to memorize these forms:

Note: Be careful with the -CIR verbs. Did you notice that there is no “i” after the “j” in the 3rd person singular and plural (condujo, condujeron, dijo, dijeron, produjo, produjeron, tradujo, tradujeron)?

Here are some of these irregular verbs in action:
No quise irme cuando Chino y Nacho
comenzaron a cantar.

I refused (didn’t want) to leave when Chino
and Nacho began to sing.
Carlos Vives estuvo en Medellín sólo una

Carlos Vives was in Medellín only for one
Goldilocks no cupo en las sillas de los osos.
Goldilocks didn’t fit into the chairs of the
¿Quién puso mi billetera en el tostador?
Who put my wallet in the toaster?
Mis primos me trajeron el nuevo álbum de
Juan Luis Guerra.

My cousins brought me the new Juan Luis
Guerra album.
Les dijimos “adiós” a todos nuestros

We said “goodbye” to all of our fans.
“No tradujiste el poema del inglés al
español”, se quejó la profesora.

“You didn’t translate the poem from English to
Spanish,” complained the teacher.
Fuimos al nuevo estadio de los Dallas
Cowboys para ver el partido.

We went to the new stadium of the Dallas
Cowboys in order to see the game.
Normalmente mi hermano ayuda en la cocina, pero ayer no hizo nada.
Normally my brother helps in the kitchen, but
yesterday he did nothing.