7.5 Preterite Tense of Regular Verbs and Some Stem-Changing Verbs

The imperfect and the preterite are the two simple (not compound) past tenses. Here are the forms of the regular preterite:

tomar beber abrir
yo tomé bebí abrí
tomaste bebiste abriste
él, Ella, Ud. tomó bebió  abr
Nosotros tomamos bebimos abrimos
Vosotros tomasteis bebisteis abristeis
ellos, ellas, Uds. tomaron  bebieron abrieron

¡Ojo! Did you notice the two forms that are identical to the present tense? Hint: look at the nosotros forms…

Helpful Translation Hints

You need to recognize these forms, some of which are very similar, and be able to translate them accurately. Here are some possibly helpful hints to remembering:

  • The yo form still ends in a vowel: accented é or í.
  • The tú form ends in -te, which is identical to the object pronouns you have learned that correspond to tú. 
  • The third person singular still ends in a vowel, always an accented ó (or ).
  • The nosotros form, in all tenses, ends in -mos.
  • You may wish to view the -is of the vosotros form as a plural marker, as tomasteis, for example, is the plural of tomaste (in Spain).
  • The third person plural always ends in an -nin all tenses. The preterite inserts an -r in the ending, between vowels.
  • The nosotros forms of -ar and -ir verbs in the preterite are the same as the present tense. Context will tell you which it is.

¡Ojo! In the third person singular of -ar verbs, the written accent is the only distinguishing feature from the first person singular of the present tense: tomó (he took) versus tomo (I take). Pay special attention, as this is only the first of several such cases. The subject pronouns may be present to help you readily distinguish the meaning, but more often than not they are omitted.

Note on Spelling Changes

Regular -er and -ir verbs that have an e,i or u before the infinitive ending routinely change the i of the third person endings (i.e., -ió and -ieron) to y, giving preterite forms such as leyó and leyeron (for leer) and construyó and construyeron (for construir [“to construct”]).

Preterite Meaning

When you see a preterite tense, it is helpful to know that it is used for actions that happened once and are viewed as completed; sequential actions (one completed before the next begins); a change in mental state; to describe the beginning or the end of an action. (The imperfect narrates the “middle” aspect of an action, that is, one that was ongoing.)

Se acostó a las once. She went to bed at eleven o’clock.
Me levanté, me bañé y salí. I got up, bathed and left.
Por fin decidimos salir. We finally decided to go out.
Comenzó a llover. It began to rain.
Dejé de ir a su casa. I stopped going to his house.

Vocabulario básico 

Verbos:

abrazar- to hug, to embrace
amar- to love (cognate: amorous)
besar- to kiss
casarse (con)- to get married (to)
decretar- to decree
derrotar- to defeat
enamorarse (de)- to fall in love (with)
fracasar- to fail
fumar- to smoke
luchar- to fight (a war, for a cause)
mudarse- to move (residence)
nacer- to be born (cognate: nascent)
odiar- to hate (cognate: odious)
pelear(se)- to fight
probar (ue)- to prove, to taste
reunir- to get together, to reunite
unir- to unite

Sustantivos:

el bautizo- baptism
la boda- wedding
la búsqueda- search
el/la cantante- singer
el cariño- affection
el/la judío/-a- Jew; (adj.)- Jewish
el mal- disease; damage; evil
el matrimonio- matrimony, marriage, married couple
el/ la moro/a- Moor
el plátano- banana
los Reyes Católicos- The Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabella)
el soroche- altitude sickness

Adjetivo:

guatemalteco- Guatemalan

Adverbios:

anoche- last night
anteayer- the day before yesterday
ayer- yesterday

Expresión:

dejar + de + infinitive- to stop doing something; to fail to do something

Last revised on June 16, 2021.