Tener, Poder, Querer & Saber in the Preterite

The complications never end with the preterite tense. Not only are there piles of irregular verbs, but some verbs actually change their meaning when put into the preterite tense from the present.

If you speak Spanish on a regular basis, you will come to understand these differences just by hearing them spoken aloud in the context of a conversation. Right now, all you need to do is familiarize yourself with the idea that some verbs can have a different meaning in the past. The more Spanish you speak, the more you’ll adopt these meanings automatically.

Verb

Present Tense

Preterite (Past) Tense

conocer

conozco a – I know (someone)

conocí a – I met (someone)

poder

podemos – we can

pudimos – we managed to
no pudimos – we failed to

querer

quiero – I want, I love

quise – I tried to
no quise – I refused to

saber

sabemos – we know

supimos – we found out

tener

tengo frío – I am cold

tuve frío – I got cold

Por ejemplo:

Once you learn how to form the imperfect tense in the next section, you’ll learn how to give these verbs their original meaning again, as in, “I knew,” “I could,” “I wanted,” et cetera.

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