17 December 2018

Pretérito Indefinido of regular verbs: past simple tense in Spanish

Unlike in English, the pretérito indefinido (the simple past) tense in Spanish is a bit harder to master. Whereas in English, you simply use the same form of the verb for every pronoun, in Spanish, each pronoun has its own past form. The best way to learn it is by memorizing, reviewing, reading, practicing speaking with natives and watching films. As you grow accustomed to hearing Spanish spoken, it will become almost like second nature.

Pretérito Indefinido of regular verbs: past simple tense in Spanish
El Pretérito Indefinido - the past simple in Spanish

When is the pretérito indefinido used?

The pretérito indefinido is used to express:

  • a completed action at some point or moment in the past.
  • the beginning or end of an action in the past.
  • an action in the past that interrupts an action that was already taking place (this involves another past tense called imperfecto).

Time words that trigger pretérito indefinido

There are some words that will make it easy to identify when to use this tense:

  • ayer, anoche, anteayer or antes de ayer
    yesterday, last night, the day before yesterday
  • la semana pasada, el mes / año / siglo pasado
    last week/month/year/century
  • hace… días_/ semanas / meses / años
    days/weeks/months/years ago
  • en… mes / año
    in a month/year

Here are some examples:

La semana pasasada caminé hasta el parque.
Last week I walked to the park.

Anoche, Ana volvió a casa a las tres de la mañana.
Last night, Anna returned home at three in the morning.

Mis padres viajaron por Japón en 2002.
My parents travelled around Japan in 2002.

Hace dos años montamos a caballo por primera vez.
Two years ago, we rode horses for the first time.

Conjugating regular verbs in pretérito indefinido in Spanish

Conjugating regular verbs in Spanish in the pretérito indefinido is quite easy as you just follow a simple formula. First, you remove the -AR, -ER or -IR endings from the verbs to find the root of the verb; for example, habl – (hablar), sal – (salir), com – (comer). Once you have the root of the verb, simply add the specific suffixes for each of the pronouns. Take note that for both -ER and -IR verbs, the suffixes are the same!

Here is a table showing examples:

hablar (to speak) volver (to return) salir (to go out)
yo hablé volví salí
hablaste volviste saliste
él / ella / usted habló volv sal
nosotros / as hablamos volvimos salimos
vosotros /as hablasteis volvisteis salisteis
ellos / ellas / ustedes hablaron volvieron salieron

Hopefully, this helps clear up any difficulties you may have with this tricky tense. Stay tuned for the next post on irregular verbs.