Forming the Preterit The preterit is one of two past tenses in Spanish. It is used with great frequency but is, unfortunately, the most complicated tense to form. There are two sets of regular endings: one for –ar and one for –er/-ir verbs. hablar -é -aste -ó -amos -asteis -aron comer/vivir -í -iste -ió -imos -isteis -ieron Drop the –ar/-er/-ir and then add the endings. hablé hablamos hablaste hablasteis habló hablaron comí comimos comiste comisteis comió comieron viví vivimos viviste vivisteis vivió vivieron ACCENT MARKS ARE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!!! Look what happens if you leave off an accent mark: hablé hablamos hablaste hablasteis habló hablaron Without the accent mark, you have “I speak” (hablo) instead of “he spoke” (habló). You don’t know it yet, but if you leave off the accent mark in “hablé,” that means something different too. Note that, while the “vosotros” form looks intimidating, it’s simply the “tú” form with “-is” added to it. -é -aste -ó -amos -asteis -aron -í -iste -ió -imos -isteis -ieron Note also that the “nosotros” form of –ar verbs and of –ir verbs is the same as the present but that the “nosotros” form of –er verbs is NOT. hablamos present comemos vivimos hablamos preterit comimos vivimos Note that –ar verbs and –er verbs don’t stem change. -ir verbs do, but that will be discussed in a later section. volver salir pensar vuelve volvió salgo salí piensas pensaste he returns he returned I leave I left you think you thought All the practice exercises will be done as above. You’re given, for example, “vuelve” and must change it to “volvió.” Click here to go to a practice exercise. Verbs with Spelling Changes Verbs that end with –gar, -car, or –zar are going to undergo a spelling change. Consider the verb “tocar.” You would expect the “yo” form to be “tocé,” right? But think about how a “c” sounds when it comes before an “e” or an “i.” It sounds like an “s.” “Tocé” would sound like “tosé.” But we want the “c” to sound like a “k,” just like it does in “tocar.” To get that “k” sound, you have to change the “c” to a “qu”: toqué tocaste tocó tocamos tocasteis tocaron Note that you change it only in the “yo” form; that’s the only place you have an “e,” so you don’t need to change it anywhere else. The same is true of verbs that end in –gar, like “pagar.” When a “g” comes before an “e” or “i,” it sounds like an “h.” That’s why you can’t have “pagé”; the “g” sounds like an “h” there but like a hard “g” in “pagar.” To keep the hard “g” sound, you have to change the “g” to a “gu”: pagué pagamos pagaste pagasteis pagó pagaron Again, note that only the “yo” form is affected; no other form has an “e,” so no other form gets “gu.” Unfortunately, there’s no logical explanation for the change in –car verbs. There just happens to be a rule in Spanish that says “z” can’t come before “e” or “i.” If that happens, you have to change the “z” to a “c”: almorcé almorzaste almorzó almorzamos almorzasteis almorzaron You may be familiar with the plural of “feliz”: “felices.” Summary Verbs that end in –car, -gar, and –car are going to have a spelling change in the “yo” form: toqué tocamos tocaste tocasteis tocó tocaron pagué pagamos pagaste pagasteis pagó pagaron almorcé almorzamos almorzaste almorzasteis almorzó almorzaron There’s one other type of word that undergoes a spelling change. When an “i” without an accent mark over it gets stuck between two other vowels, it becomes a “y.” You may remember this change from the present participle (sometimes called a gerund): leer le- + -iendo leiendo leyendo That’s what happens with the third person preterit: leer le- + -ió leió leyó leer le- + -ieron leieron leyeron Click here to go to a practice exercise. -ir stem-changing verbs As was mentioned before, -ar and –er verbs don’t stem change. Present pienso piensas piensa vuelvo vuelves vuelve Preterit pensamos pensáis piensan pensar pensé pensaste pensó pensamos pensasteis pensaron volvemos volvéis vuelven volver volví volviste volvió volvimos volvisteis volvieron However, -ir verbs DO stem change. Unfortunately, the way they change in the preterit is a little different from the way they stem change in the present. Present pido pides pide pedimos pedís piden pedir Preterit pedí pediste pidió pedimos pedisteis pidieron In the preterit, -ir verbs stem change in the third person singular and plural ONLY. And that’s not the end of the story. Not only do –ir verbs stem change in the preterit where –er and –ar verbs don’t; they change to just an “i” (never “ie”) or just a “u” never “ue.” Present siento sientes siente duermo duermes duerme Preterit sentir sentimos sentí sentís sentiste sienten sintió dormir dormimos dormí dormís dormiste duermen durmió sentimos sentisteis sintieron dormimos dormisteis durmieron Click here to go to a practice exercise. Irregular Verbs So far you’ve seen regular verbs, stem-changing verbs, and verbs that undergo spelling changes. The last item on the agenda is irregular verbs. And there are quite a few. Most irregular verbs follow a type of pattern. Two, however, do not, and you have to memorize them all by themselves: ser/ir fui fuiste fue fuimos fuisteis fueron dar di diste dio dimos disteis dieron Since “ser” and “ir” are conjugated the same way in the preterit, “fui,” for example, can mean “I went” or “I was,” depending on context. What makes “dar” irregular is the fact that it’s an –ar verb but has –er/-ir endings. All other irregular verbs get the same set of endings. Here are the irregular stems and the endings: querer poner poder tener estar venir saber hacer decir traer quispuspudtuvestuvvinsuphicdijtraj- -e -iste -o -imos -isteis -(i)eron Just put the appropriate ending on the stem. “Puse” is “I put,” “hiciste” is “you did,” etc. The reason the third plural ending is “-(i)eron” is that the verbs with a “j” in their stem (decir, traer) don’t get the “i”: dijeron, trajeron The third person of “hacer” undergoes a spelling change: hice hiciste hizo hicimos hicisteis hicimos In “hice,” “hiciste,” “hicimos,” etc., the “c” is pronounced like an “s.” If we left the “c” in the third singular, however, it would be pronounced like a “k.” To keep the “s” sound, you have to change the “c” to a “z.” Click here to go to a practice exercise. Ta-da! Finished! Now all you have to do is learn the other past tense and then learn when to use it and when to use the preterit. Piece of cake.