Preterite Tense

We’ll begin with the preterite forms of regular AR verbs. The verb caminar (to walk) will serve as our model.

CAMINAR (to walk)

Subject Pronoun Verb Conjugation English
yo caminé I walked
caminaste you walked
usted caminó you walked
él (ella) caminó (s)he walked
nosotros(as) caminamos we walked
vosotros(as) caminasteis you all walked
ustedes caminaron you all walked
ellos(as) caminaron they walked

There are a couple of things to note here. First, the accent mark is extremely important to remember in the preterite tense. Failure to include the accent mark over the o in caminó would leave you with camino which, as you know, means I walk. This is quite different from he/she walked. Also, notice how the nosotros form in the preterite is identical to the present tense form. Context clues will help you to determine whether caminamos should be translated as we walk or we walked. Now let’s look at the preterite forms of ER verbs. We’ll use the verb comer (to eat) as the model.

COMER (to eat)

Subject Pronoun Verb Conjugation English
yo comí I ate
comiste you ate
usted com you ate
él (ella) com (s)he ate
nosotros(as) comimos we ate
vosotros(as) comisteis you all ate
ustedes comieron you all ate
ellos(as) comieron they ate

The preterite endings for IR verbs are identical to the preterite endings for ER verbs. Let’s look at the preterite forms of vivir (to live).

VIVIR (to live)

Subject Pronoun Verb Conjugation English
yo viví I lived
viviste you lived
usted viv you lived
él (ella) viv (s)he lived
nosotros(as) vivimos we lived
vosotros(as) vivisteis you all lived
ustedes vivieron you all lived
ellos(as) vivieron they lived

As you can see, conjugating regular verbs in the preterite tense isn’t that difficult, especially since ER and IR verbs share identical endings. However, just like in the present tense, there are many verbs with irregular forms in the preterite that do not follow the above patterns and need to be memorized separately. In the next section we will discuss verbs with irregular preterite forms. Before moving on, however, here are a few complete sentences containing regular preterite verbs.

Yo caminé a clase ayer. I walked to class yesterday.
Ella y yo hablamos por seis horas anoche. She and I talked for six hours last night.
Carlos cantó cinco canciones durante el concierto. Carlos sang five songs during the concert.
Susana y Alberto comieron todo el pan. Susana and Alberto ate all the bread.
Miguel escribió una carta. Miguel wrote a letter.
Mi familia vivió en San Juan por siete meses. My family lived in San Juan for seven months.

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