How do I form the preterite tense in Spanish?

For verbs ending in -ar the following endings should be added to the stem of the verb (a practical example is provided in the brackets):

-é (hablé)
-aste (hablaste)
-ó (habló).
-amos (hablamos).
-asteis (hablasteis).
-aron (hablaron).

-er and -ir verbs have the same endings, which are as follows:

-í (viví).
-iste (viviste).
-ió (viv).
-imos (vivimos).
-isteis (vivisteis).
-ieron (vivieron).

The Preterite Tense is generally used in 6 different situations which are listed below.

  1. When talking about actions that occured at a fixed point in time.
    Eg. I ate at 6.30.

2) When referring to actions that occured a specific number of times.
Eg. I called you 3 times.

3) When talking about things that happened in an enclosed period of time.
Eg. He went on holiday for 2 months.

4) Actions that are part of a chain of events.
Eg. I ate breakfast, packed my bag, and went to school.

5) When describing sudden changes in sentiment or opinion.
Eg. In that moment, I was extremely angry.

6) Used in phrases that pin point a particular time. Key words to look out for are "yesterday," "last night," "afterwards," "last year," "the other day," etc...

[The verbs in italics are the ones that would be in the preterite tense if the sentence was in Spanish. I just thought that it would be easier to understand the context in which they are used if you could see it in English].


I would be happy to look at practise examples in Spanish and tell you if you are on the right track.

This tense also has a lot of irregular verbs, which I suggest you memorize as soon as possible as they don't follow a specific rule in their irregularity.

Answered by Dominique L. Spanish tutor

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