Today we are going to speak about a new group of irregulars in the Spanish preterite tense. We have already seen the regular verbs and the very irregular verbs in what we call PRETÉRITO INDEFINIDO. Don’t panic! this time is going to be really easy.
This new group of verbs has spelling changes, the irregularity is just in the third person singular (él, ella, usted) and plural (ellos, ellas, ustedes) The change is going to affect only one letter, and we can organize them into three main groups.
Spanish verbs with third persons irregular in the preterite
1. All the verbs ending in “–ir” that have an “e” in the penultimate syllable (sentir, preferir, pedir, mentir…) change that “e” for a “i” in the third persons (él, ella, usted, ellos, ellas, ustedes). Compare:
Yo preferí comer pescado (I preferred to eat fish).
Carlos prefirió no venir con nosotros (Carlos preferred not to come with us).
Nosotros pedimos la cuenta (We asked for the bill).
Los niños pidieron la merienda (The children asked for a snack).
2. All the verbs ending in “-ir” that have an “o” in the penultimate syllable (dormir, morir) change that “o” for a “u” in the third persons (el, ella, usted, ellos, ellas, ustedes). Compare:
Ayer no dormí nada (Yesterday, I didn’t sleep at all).
Ayer el niño no durmió nada (Yesterday, the children didn’t sleep at all).
Tres personas murieron en el accidente (Three people died in the crash).
3. All the verbs ending in –aer, –eer, –oír and –uir, change the “i” for a “y” In the third persons (yo, ella, usted, ustedes, ellos, ellas). Compare:
Me caí en la calle (I fell in the street).
La mujer se cayó en la calle (The woman fell in the street).
Leí un libro (I read a book).
Los niños leyeron un libro (The children read a book).
Note that the endings of these verbs are exactly the same as those of regular verbs, including the accent.
All these verbs are irregulars also in the gerund, and most of them in the present tense, also they are going to have a small change in the present subjunctive, so good to pay special attention to this group of verbs in all the tenses.
Irregulars in the Spanish preterite: exercises
Here you have some activities to practice what we have learned above. Just write the third person singular and plural of the infinitives given in the chart and remember you can contact your tutor with any question you have. Don´t you have a Spanish tutor yet?