Spanish Preterite Tense -Pretérito Indefinido- when to use it

When to use the Spanish preterite tense is a dilemma for many Spanish students, since Spanish has several past tenses.  Overall, we use the preterite tense (PRETÉRITO INDEFINIDO)  when in English you say “did something” to describe a completed action in the past that happened at a specific time. Look at the examples:

When and how to use the Spanish Pretérite tense

When to use the preterite tense in Spanish

1. It’s used to describe completed actions or events which occurred once or several times in the past. While if they  used to happen regularly the imperfect tense is used  . Compare:

Visité a mi madre dos veces el año pasado. (I visited my mother two times last year).

Visitaba a mi madre todas las semanas cuando vivía en Madrid. (I visited my mother every week when I was living in Madrid.)

2. The action may continue for a while, although the length of time is defined:

Pasé tres meses en Madrid. (I spent three months in Madrid).

 La película duró dos horas. (The film lasted two hours). 

3. For questions and negatives, you don’t need “did” and “didn’t”:

¿Bailaste con Carla? (Did you dance with Carla?).

 No bailé con Carla. (I didn’t dance with Carla).

4. It is normally used with temporal expressions, such as:

Ayer (yesterday)Anoche (last night)El lunes (on Monday)
Hace dos años (two years ago)El mes pasado  (last month)En 1969 (in 1969)

How to form the preterite tense

Now that you know when to use the preterite tense in Spanish, it would be good that you practice how to form it. In the infographic on the right you can see the complete conjugation of the PRETÉRITO INDEFINIDO. Leave us a message in the comments, if you want a pdf copy of this infographic. 

You can start by working with regular verbs in the preterite. Notice that there are many irregular preterites, so maybe you prefere to work with the irregulars verbs widely used.

Remember you can contact your tutor with any question you have about this topic or to ask for activities to practice.  Don’t you have a Spanish personal tutor yet?

30 ejercicios para practicar la conjugación del PRETÉRITO INDEFINIDO

Now that you know when to use the preterite tense in Spanish, it would be good that you practice how to form it. You can start by working with regular verbs in the preterite.

There are many irregular preterites, so maybe you prefere to work with the irregulars verbs widely used.

Remember you can contact your tutor with any question you have about this topic or to ask for activities to practice.  Don’t you have a Spanish personal tutor yet?

Spanish past tenses

The Preterite is one of the four Spanish past tenses in the indicative mood. Each of them has different uses and conjugations. Here you have the other three:

if you want to know everything about the Spanish past tenses, why don’t you take one-to-one tutoring online?

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