Unfortunately, you can't handle many conversational topics by just talking about what is happening right now. To express yourself fully, you need to be able to talk about what happened yesterday, or last week, or last year.

Spanish Preterite

(Talking about What Happened in the Past)

This is where the past tense comes in. The past tense will enable you to talk about events in the past, actions that started and ended in the past, and actions that started in the past and continue up until now.

The Two Major Past Tenses – Preterite & Imperfect

There is more than one past tense in Spanish. The two most common past tenses are the preterite and the imperfect. Get used to these terms! These tenses are used all the time to refer to actions that occur in the past. Just like ser and estar, you'll have to learn the difference between the preterite and imperfect, even though we don't have that difference in English.

The preterite tense is used to describe events that happened at a definite point in the past. For example, if you were describing a trip you had by saying, "We did this, then we did this, and finally we did this," you would use the preterite tense quite often.

Take note that you should probably use the preterite if you come across one of the following words or phrases:

Download
el otro día
the other day
Download
el año pasado
last year
Download
ayer
yesterday
Download
una vez
once
Download
anoche
last night
Download
la semana pasada
last week

The imperfect tense, on the other hand, is different. It is used to describe continuous actions in the past. These actions will not usually have a specific date associated with them. For example, if you are talking about how old you were, or what you used to do when you were in school, or what you were doing when something else happened, you would generally use the imperfect.

The preterite is actually the more difficult to conjugate of the two past tenses. Therefore, we'll start on it so that you can get the hard stuff out of the way!

Starting with the Preterite

Like all conjugations in Spanish, you'll have to memorize the verb endings. I promise that they'll all become second nature after time. The best way to memorize them is simply practice, practice, practice!

Study the verb endings in the following table:

Subject Pronoun

ar verbs hablar (to talk)

er verbs comer (to eat)

ir verbs vivir (to live)

yo

habl-é

com-í

viv-í

habl-aste

com-iste

viv-iste

Ud., él, ella

habl-ó

com-ió

viv-ió

nosotros/as

habl-amos

com-imos

viv-imos

vosotros/as

habl-asteis

com-isteis

viv-isteis

Uds., ellos, ellas

habl-aron

com-ieron

viv-ieron

The first thing you should notice is that there are only two sets of endings: one for –ar verbs and the second for –er and –ir verbs.

Notice that the verb endings for nosotros are the same as in the present tense. This means that when you hear a sentence about something "we" did or are doing, you'll have to guess from the context whether it occurred in the past or the present.

Another important thing to notice is that the third person singular form (Ud., él, ella) for –ar verbs looks almost identical to the first person form … except for the accent mark over the 'o'. So don't forget it!

Por ejemplo:

In the next section the confustion begins when you'll learn about Irregular Verbs in the Spanish Preterite.

Testing!

Test yourself with the Rocket Spanish testing tools! Improve your knowledge of Spanish and earn points for your badges along the way!

Note that the tests below are listed from easiest to hardest. Also, when a test is successfully rated the rating icon will at the top right of this page will show that rating.

Hola, my name’s Mauricio Evlampieff, I’m the host of Rocket Spanish.

I come from the beautiful country of Chile, which means Spanish is my native language. But I know how hard it can be to learn a new language, because I’ve been there.

Together with my English speaking colleague, Amy, I want to help you to speak and understand Spanish while cutting your learning time in half with my Rocket Spanish online course.

I've travelled the world over, and have found that languages are a great way to meet people and discover new things. I really want to make your Spanish learning experience rewarding and fun!

Speak Spanish...
  • With over 30 fully downloadable Interactive Audio Lessons. Based on actual everyday Spanish conversations, these lessons average over 25 minutes each, giving you more than 12 hours of real Spanish conversation!

Try one for yourself today! Here is the very first Interactive Audio Lesson from Rocket Spanish

Listen to the FULL Audio

Understand Spanish...

There are just 3 steps to dramatically improving your understanding of Spanish!

  • Learn to understand exactly how Spanish works by exploring over 30 Language & Culture Lessons
  • Train your ear with Hear It Say It !, the self-testing tool that perfects your pronunciation by harnessing the power of our Rocket Record voice comparison technology.
  • Put yourself on the spot by testing how accurately you can translate randomly selected phrases using Rocket Record and the Know It! self-testing tool.
Cut your learning time in half...
  • By checking out our Advanced Learning Techniques; making the most of My Forum, our 24/7 online learners space, and making learning fun with the Language Master Games.
  • Plus you can see just how quickly you language skills are growing with My Level, our self-testing tool.

And that’s not all!

So, if you’re ready to speak and understand Spanish while cutting your learning time in half, then Rocket Spanish is just what you need...!

Like This Resource? Please Share!

Like Our Site? Follow Us!

Click here to
improve your Spanish,
get a free trial, a
free report and more...
Rocket Spanish Host - Mauricio Evlampieff
PC Mag PC mag editor rating

“Rocket Languages is our Editors’ Choice for language-learning.”

Bessie Awards

More Learn Spanish resources

Rocket Spanish Premium

This beginner level course for new learners contains some amazing features that will really get your Spanish language skills moving.

Click Here to Learn More


Click here to take a tour of Rocket Spanish Premium


Rocket Spanish Premium Plus

-Intermediate Course

This course is perfect if you have some Spanish skills already and you're ready to step up to the next level

Click Here to Learn More


Rocket Spanish Platinum

-Advanced Course

If you're ready to become a fluent, natural, confident Spanish speaker then this advanced level course is for you.

Click Here to Learn More


Learn Spanish Forum

This Spanish language forum is where you go to get feedback and to connect with other learners. Interacting with teachers and peers will really help develop your understanding!

Click Here to Learn More


Learn Spanish Blog

Rocket Languages
Reviews

How satisfied are you with your Rocket Languages experience?

How likely are you to buy again?

Are you happy with the price?

Would you recommend to a friend?

How was the Customer Service?


Renee Hinsley - Lebanon / Oregon, USA - Rocket Spanish

"I think it is good, I just wanted to get the basic part of how to learn it from text book would be getting the foundation which is countable. I took a few months at a senior center in Salem..."

Read More

Renee Hinsley

Lebanon / Oregon, USA

"I think it is good, I just wanted to get the basic part of how to learn it from text book would be getting the foundation which is countable. I took a few months at a senior center in Salem..."

Overall
How satisfied are you with your Rocket Languages experience?
How likely are you to buy again?
Are you happy with the price?
Would you recommend to a friend?
How was the Customer Service?

I think it is good, I just wanted to get the basic part of how to learn it from text book would be getting the foundation which is countable. I took a few months at a senior center in Salem Oregon called the 50s club , was in class with 10 or so others,taught by a professor , used a book and we read out loud. No just a conversation but the verbs, adj. and all the rest. would be better if this was more formed that way, but I will continue to use this , very thankful. Renee Hinlsey


Alvin McClure - USA - Rocket Spanish

"This course is perfect for my needs. I'm very happy with the quality of the materials. The enunciation is crystal clear.The coursework is easy to follow yet challenging. I just need to make more time "

Read More

Alvin McClure

USA

"This course is perfect for my needs. I'm very happy with the quality of the materials. The enunciation is crystal clear.The coursework is easy to follow yet challenging. I just need to make more time "

Overall
How satisfied are you with your Rocket Languages experience?
How likely are you to buy again?
Are you happy with the price?
Would you recommend to a friend?
How was the Customer Service?

I've taken the first steps and I'm on my way! This course is perfect for my needs. I'm very happy with the quality of the materials. The enunciation is crystal clear.The coursework is easy to follow yet challenging. I just need to make more time to practice!


John Daily - Dallas Pennsylvania, USA - Rocket Spanish

"...I learned about Rocket Spanish on Youtube and signed up for the 6 day free trial. After four lessons I was so impressed with my learning curve I signed up. Now I am on my way!"

Read More

John Daily

Dallas Pennsylvania, USA

"...I learned about Rocket Spanish on Youtube and signed up for the 6 day free trial. After four lessons I was so impressed with my learning curve I signed up. Now I am on my way!"

Overall
How satisfied are you with your Rocket Languages experience?
How likely are you to buy again?
Are you happy with the price?
Would you recommend to a friend?
How was the Customer Service?

I always wanted to learn Spanish. I have many occasions each year that I need to communicate with Spanish customers. I learned about Rocket Spanish on Youtube and signed up for the 6 day free trial. After four lessons I was so impressed with my learning curve I signed up. Now I am on my way!


Dennis Scott - USA - Rocket Spanish

"...tutor is very helpful to get the words right and the proper inflection where it's needed. Phrase finder is great for learning words and phrases of all sorts. Enjoying the experience!"

Read More

Dennis Scott

USA

"...tutor is very helpful to get the words right and the proper inflection where it's needed. Phrase finder is great for learning words and phrases of all sorts. Enjoying the experience!"

Overall
How satisfied are you with your Rocket Languages experience?
How likely are you to buy again?
Are you happy with the price?
Would you recommend to a friend?
How was the Customer Service?

Instructors are easy to understand to follow. Being able to go back over the material and compare to the tutor is very helpful to get the words right and the proper inflection where it's needed. Phrase finder is great for learning words and phrases of all sorts. Enjoying the experience!


Eleanora Swanson - United States - Rocket Spanish

"I really like the way the course is set up. I am just getting started, but glad I have the opportunity to ask questions of other learners. I need to practice more and increase my vocabulary."

Read More

Eleanora Swanson

United States

"I really like the way the course is set up. I am just getting started, but glad I have the opportunity to ask questions of other learners. I need to practice more and increase my vocabulary."

Overall
How satisfied are you with your Rocket Languages experience?
How likely are you to buy again?
Are you happy with the price?
Would you recommend to a friend?
How was the Customer Service?

I really like the way the course is set up. I am just getting started, but glad I have the opportunity to ask questions of other learners. I need to practice more and increase my vocabulary. This course offers opportunities to work through the lessons, but also to practice in a variety of ways.


FREE TRIAL