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5.6: El pretérito de los verbos regulares

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    Preterite tense of regular verbs

    To talk about events in the past, Spanish uses two simple tenses: the preterite and the imperfect. We will start with the preterite tense.


    • To talk about actions or states completed in the past
    • To express the beginning or the end of a past action
    • To narrate a series of past completed actions
    • To express an action that had a specific duration

    Conjugation of regular verbs

    In the following conjugations, the endings that must be modified are in bold.

    Subject Pronoun: -AR ending verb: Hablar -ER, -IR ending verbs: Comer, Escribir
    Yo hablé comí, escribí
    hablaste comiste, escribiste
    Ud., él, ella habló com, escrib
    Nosotros, nosotras hablamos comimos, escribimos
    Vosotros, vosotras hablasteis comisteis, escribisteis
    Uds., ellos, ellas hablaron comieron, escribieron
    • A written accent is needed on the last syllable of the conjugation of "yo" and "Ud., él, ella" form.
    • The preterite endings for regular "-er" and "-ir" verbs are identical.
    • The "nosotros" forms of regular "-ar" and "-ir" verbs in the preterite are identical to the present tense form. Context will help you determine which tense is being used.


    En invierno "compramos" suéteres. (In the winter we buy sweaters.)

    Anoche "compramos" unas sandalias. (Last night we bought some sandals.)

    "Escribimos" poemas en clase. (We write poems in clase.)

    Ya "escribimos" dos veces al presidente. (We already wrote to the president twice.)

    • "-ar" and "-er" ending verbs that have a stem change in the present tense do not have a stem change in the preterite.
    Present Preterite Present Preterite

    e → ie


    cierro cerramos

    cierras cerráis

    cierra cierran

    no stem change


    cerré cerramos

    cerraste cerrasteis

    cerró cerraron

    o → ue


    vuelvo volvemos

    vuelves volvéis

    vuelve vuelven

    no stem change


    volví volvimos

    volviste volvisteis

    volv volvieron

    Verbs with spelling changes

    • Verbs that end in -CAR, -GAR, and -ZAR have a spelling change only in the "yo" form. Note: The spelling change is underline and the conjugated endings are in bold.
    Subject Pronoun -CAR: Sacar -GAR: Pagar -ZAR: Abrazar
    Yo saqué pagué abracé
    sacaste pagaste abrazaste
    Ud., él, ella sacó pagó abrazó
    Nosotros, nosotras sacamos pagamos abrazamos
    Vosotros, vosotras sacasteis pagasteis abrazasteis
    Uds., ellos, ellas sacaron pagaron abrazaron

    Words commonly used with the preterite

    Spanish English Spanish English
    anoche last night desde... hasta... from... until...
    anteayer the day before yesterday pasado, pasada last; past (adjective)
    el año pasado last year la semana pasada last week
    ayer yesterday una vez; dos veces once; twice (two times)
    de repente suddenly ya already

    Ayer compré una camisa. Miré la televisión anoche.

    Yesterday, I bought a shirt. I watched TV last night.

    Useful phrases

    Spanish English
    ¿Qué hiciste? What did you (singular, familiar) do?
    ¿Qué hizo usted? What did you (singular, formal) do?
    ¿Qué hicieron ustedes? What did you all (formal) do?
    ¿Qué hizo él? ¿Qué hizo ella? What did he do? What did she do?
    ¿Que hicieron ellos? ¿Qué hicieron ellas? What did they do?