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9.6: Hablando del pasado (Talking about the past) - The preterit

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    Since we are talking to visits to the doctor, you may want to tell what you did that resulted in you not feeling well. In order to do this, you need to use el pretérito indefinido. (Most textbooks just call it the preterit, even though the preterit actually just means past and there are different kinds of past tense conjugation). Here are the conjugations of the pretérito indefinido of regular verbs.

    hablar comer escribir
    hablé hablamos comí comimos escribí escribimos
    hablaste (hablasteis) comiste (comisteis) escribiste (escribisteis)
    habló hablaron com comieron escrib escribieron

    What do you notice about these conjugations?

    The nosotr@s form for –ar and –ir verbs is the same in the preterit as in the present tense. You tell by context whether it is present or past. Note that for –er verbs the, it is ¨emos¨ for present and ¨imos¨ for preterit.

    Para hablantes de herencia (Note to heritage speakers)

    •¿Qué (comer) tú ayer?

    –How would you conjugate this verb in this sentence?

    –The form accepted as ¨correct¨ is ¨comiste.¨

    –However, many speakers would ask, ¨¿Qué comistes ayer? This is fine for informal speech, but in formal contexts, ¨comiste¨ may be the form that people expect to hear. You may want to practice this in class so that you can choose the formal register when called for. In writing in the educational or work setting, using the formal register is recommended, unless imitating speech for fiction or reporting what someone has said.

    •Why do you think that ¨comistes¨ is so common?

    •It is because every other ¨tú¨ conjugation ends in ¨s.¨ Our brains pick up that rule and put an ¨s¨ on the preterit ¨tú¨ conjugation as well.

    Actividad comunicativa: ¿Qué hiciste ayer?

    •¿Qué hiciste ayer (yesterday)?

    •Me levanté, desayuné y asistí a mis clases.

    •Ask several students what they did at several times in the past. You will need the verb ¨hacer,¨ which is irregular in the preterit. Before you begin, look below for some useful vocabulary for talking about the past.


    hice hicimos
    hiciste (hicisteis)
    hizo hicieron


    Información adicional

    You may be asking... What about stem changing verbs? –ar and –er verbs do not stem change in any of the conjugations. –ir verbs do. We will learn how soon.

    vocabulario: words that refer to the past

    Some useful words to talk about the past:

    ayer yesterday
    anoche last night
    esta mañana this morning
    anteayer the day before yesterday
    la semana pasada last week
    el fin de semana pasado last weekend
    Nota gramatical

    After ¨antes de¨ or ¨después de,¨ the verb isn´t conjugated if the subject is the same as the other subject in the sentence. However, if the verb is reflexive, you still have to make sure the reflexive pronoun matches the subject of the verb.


    Me ducho después de hacer ejercicio.

    Voy a Starbucks antes de ir al campus.

    María toma las pruebas despues de estudiar y practicar.

    Manuel corre antes de ducharse, tomarse un café y mirar la televisión antes del trabajo. 


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    9.6: Hablando del pasado (Talking about the past) - The preterit is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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