In this lesson we’re going to look at how to conjugate the preterite of regular Spanish verbs. The Preterite is the simple past form of a Spanish verb. Like the English simple past tense, the preterite expresses a fact or action that took place at one moment in the past and ended in the past.
Recall from our lesson on present tense regular verbs that Spanish infinitives consist of two parts: the root and the infinitive ending. The infinitives belong to three groups determined by their endings: -ar, -er, and –ir. The preterite of a regular Spanish verbs is made by removing the infinitive ending and replacing it with an ending corresponding with who or what is performing the action.
The Preterite of Regular –AR Verbs
Example: comprar – to buy.
|él, ella, usted||ó||compró||he/she bought, you bought|
|nosotros, nosotras||amos||compramos||we bought|
|vosotros, vosotras||asteis||comprasteis||you bought|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||aron||comparon||they bought|
The Preterite of Regular –ER and –IR Verbs
The endings for the preterite tenses of regular –er and –ir verbs are the same.
Example: comer – to eat.
|él, ella, usted||ió||comió||he/she ate, you ate|
|nosotros, nosotras||imos||comimos||we ate|
|vosotros, vosotras||isteis||comisteis||you ate|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||ieron||comieron||they ate|
Example: partir – to leave.
|él, ella, usted||ió||partió||he/she left, you left|
|nosotros, nosotras||imos||partimos||we left|
|vosotros, vosotras||isteis||partisteis||you left|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||ieron||partieron||they left|
Notes: The first and third person singular forms contain accent marks. For clarity, the third person singular and plural tend to be used with their subjects. The nosotros/nosotras forms are the same in the present and preterite tenses. Which one you are dealing with depends on the context of the sentence and (sometimes) the inclusion of an adverb.