Guide - Tenses & Moods

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The Indicative Preterite

Quick Tips

Use it to talk about actions that were completed at some point in the past

Use the Imperfect if you need to talk about things that used to happen

Watch out for the accents on the yo and él forms

What is it?

The Indicative Preterite is used to talk about things that happened in the past and are completed, for example, I spoke, I ate. It is important to note that the Preterite cannot be used to discuss things that used to happen and as soon as you've said something in the Preterite it's completed and there's no adding to the action.

How are regular verbs conjugated?

-ar verbs
Subject Verb Conjugation
yo hablar hablé
hablar hablaste
él hablar habló
nosotros hablar hablamos
vosotros hablar hablasteis
ellos hablar hablaron

-er and -ir verbs
Subject Verb Conjugation
yo comer / vivir comí / viví
comer / vivir comiste / viviste
él comer / vivir com / viv
nosotros comer / vivir comimos / vivimos
vosotros comer / vivir comisteis / vivisteis
ellos comer / vivir comieron / vivieron

Anything else I should know?

The first person plural (nosotros) endings for the Present and Preterite are the same and need context to allow the reader or listener to know when the action is/was being carried out. For example you might say 'Yesterday, we ate our lunch at twelve' - 'Ayer, almorzamos a las doce'.

Indicative Present   Indicative Imperfect