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.


Present Tense

Preterite (Past) Tense


conozco a – I know (someone)

conocí a – I met (someone)


podemos – we can

pudimos – we managed to no pudimos – we failed to


quiero – I want, I love

quise – I tried to no quise – I refused to


sabemos – we know

supimos – we found out


tengo frío – I am cold

tuve frío – I got cold

Por ejemplo:

¿Podemos entrar a su casa?

Can we come inside your house?

Pudimos entrar a tu casa.

We managed to get inside your house.

Te quiero mucho.

I love you very much.

Quise aprender a tocar el piano.

I tried to learn to play piano.

Conozco a tus padres.

I know your parents.

Conocí a tus padres.

I met your parents.

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.

Check out more Spanish Verbs for useful info!