Spanish Preterite Verbs: Leer, Saber & Traer

You will find so many irregular verbs in the preterite tense that it’s not even funny. This is one reason why you weren’t introduced to the past tense until the intermediate book: you have to be pretty dedicated to Spanish to make it this far!

If you ARE truly dedicated to learning Spanish, you’ll put in the time necessary to memorize the handful of irregular patterns that occur. The best advice I can offer you is to sound out every verb that you conjugate. The more you hear Spanish aloud, the more you’ll begin to realize when an incorrect word “sounds funny.”

The verbs below DO sound funny if you try to conjugate them in the normal way.

For example, try to say, “He read the book yesterday,” in Spanish. Did you say, “Él leió el libro ayer”? What a mouthful! The word leió does not exist in Spanish, because there’s a much, much easier alternative: leyó.

Now, try the sentence, “You brought it.” This sentence is almost impossible to say if translated as, “Usted lo traió.” Again, there is an easier alternative: Usted lo trajo.

Examine the list of irregular verbs below.

 

LEER
(to read)

SABER
(to know , to know how)

TRAER
(to bring)

yo

leí

supe

traje

leíste

supiste

trajiste

Ud., él, ella,

leyó

supo

trajo

nosotros/as

leímos

supimos

trajimos

vosotros/as

leísteis

supisteis

trajisteis

Uds., ellos, ellas

leyeron

supieron

trajeron

Understanding LEER

When there are two vowel sounds in a row, you will often have to change the spelling in order to preserve the pronunciation.

The pattern is as follows:

- The ‘i’ is replaced with a ‘y’ in the third person singular and plural forms.
- The initial ‘i’ of the verb ending is accented in all forms.

Verbs that follow the same pattern as leer include caer (to fall) and oír (to hear).

- caer: caí, caíste, cayó, caímos, caísteis, cayeron
- oír: oí, oíste, oyó, oímos, oísteis, oyeron

Por ejemplo:

Understanding SABER

This is a very strange stem change in which a vowel (whether an ‘a,’ ‘e,’ or ‘o’) changes to a ‘u’. It has no rhyme or reason.

The pattern is as follows:

A vowel is replaced with ‘u.’
The first and third person singular forms follow the –AR verb endings.
The second person singular and all plural forms follow the –ER/–IR verb endings.
There are no accent marks.

You’ll see this stem change in tener (to have), estar (to be), andar (to walk), poder (to be able to, can), and poner (to put).

tener: tuve, tuviste, tuvo, tuvimos, tuvisteis, tuvieron
estar: estuve, estuviste, estuvo, estuvimos, estuvisteis, estuvieron
andar: anduve, anduviste, anduvo, anduvimos, anduvisteis, anduvieron
poder: pude, pusiste, pudo, pudimos, pudisteis, pudieron
poner: puse, pusiste, puso, pusimos, pusisteis, pusieron

Por ejemplo:

Understanding TRAER

Remember how I mentioned earlier that decir had an additional irregularity, aside from the –e to –i stem change? Here it is: the ‘c’ in decir changes to a ‘j’ in order to preserve the hard consonant sound. For example, try to say the sentence, “She said.” If you answered, “Ella dició,” you’d be wrong. Spanish has a much simpler alternative: Ella dijo.

In addition, the endings follow the same patterns as the group of verbs above (-e, -iste, -o, -imos, -isteis, -ieron).

The pattern is as follows:

The ‘c’ (or ‘e’ in the case of traer) is changed to ‘j.’
The first and third person singular forms follow the –AR verb endings.
The second person singular and all plural forms follow the –ER/–IR verb endings.
There are no accent marks.

Verbs that follow this pattern are conducir (to drive) and producir (to produce).

conducir: conduje, condujiste, condujo, condujimos, condujisteis, condujeron producir: produje, produjiste, produjo, produjimos, produjisteis, produjeron decir: dije, dijiste, dijo, dijimos, dijisteis, dijeron

Por ejemplo:

A Few More Irregulars: HACER, VENIR, QUERER

By now you may be noticing a pattern. There are many irregular verbs in the preterite that follow the pattern of endings: -e, -iste, -o, -imos, -isteis, -ieron, with all forms being unstressed (e.g., without an accent mark). Three more of those verbs are hacer, venir, and querer.

 

HACER
(to make, to do)

QUERER
(to want, to love)

VENIR
(to come)

yo

hice

quise

vine

hiciste

quisiste

viniste

Ud., él, ella,

hizo

quiso

vino

nosotros/as

hicimos

quisimos

vinimos

vosotros/as

hicisteis

quisisteis

vinisteis

Uds., ellos, ellas

hicieron

quisieron

vinieron

Notice that both querer and venir are –e to –i stem changing verbs, while hacer makes a very strange stem change from –a to –i.

You will use these verbs so frequently that it is a good idea to put in the time to memorize their forms.

In the next section the confustion begins when you'll learn about Spanish Preterite Short Verbs: DAR, VER, IR and SER

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