The preterite tense in Spanish

The simple past tense in English is most often translated into Spanish as the preterite tense. This tense is used for completed actions taking place at a definite point in the past. Spanish also has another past tense, the imperfect, that is used for actions not yet completed or actions that did not occur at a definite point in the past. Being able to differentiate between preterite and imperect is a more advanced-level skill. In this lesson, we'll just look at how to form the preterite tense.

To form the preterite of regular verbs, from the -ar, -er, or -irending and add the following endings:

-ar verbs -er and -ir verbs
-aste -iste
Él, ella, usted -ió
Nosotros -amos -imos
Vosotros -asteis -isteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes -aron -ieron

So, verbs would be conjugated like this:

Cantar [to sing] Correr [to run] Escribir [to write]
Él, ella, ustedcantócorrióescribió
Nosotroscantamoscorrimos escribimos
Vosotroscantasteiscorristeis escribisteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedescantaron corrieronescribieron

You probably noticed that the nosotros ending -amos is the same as the present tense. Spanish speakers typically know the difference between present and past with nosotros by context, but sometimes it is unclear.

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