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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

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Forming the Preterit

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    1. Forming the Preterit

    2. 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.

    3. There are two sets of regular endings: one for ar and one for er/-ir verbs. hablar comer/vivir - -amos - -imos -aste -asteis -iste -isteis - -aron -i -ieron Drop the ar/-er/-ir and then add the endings. habl hablamos com comimos viv vivimos hablaste hablasteis comiste comisteis viviste vivisteis habl hablaron comi comieron vivi vivieron

    4. ACCENT MARKS ARE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!!! Look what happens if you leave off an accent mark: habl hablamos hablaste hablasteis habl hablaron Without the accent mark, you have I speak (hablo) instead of he spoke (habl). You dont know it yet, but if you leave off the accent mark in habl, that means something different too.

    5. Note that, while the vosotros form looks intimidating, its simply the t form with -is added to it. - -amos - -imos -aste -asteis -iste -isteis - -aron -i -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. present hablamos comemos vivimos preterit hablamos comimos vivimos

    6. Note that ar verbs and er verbs dont stem change. -ir verbs do, but that will be discussed in a later section. volver salir pensar vuelve ? volvi salgo ? sal piensas ? pensaste he returns ? he returned I leave ? I left you think ? you thought All the practice exercises will be done as above. Youre given, for example, vuelve and must change it to volvi.

    7. Click here to go to a practice exercise.

    8. 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 toc, right? But think about how a c sounds when it comes before an e or an i. It sounds like an s. Toc would sound like tos. 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: toqu tocamos tocaste tocasteis toc tocaron Note that you change it only in the yo form; thats the only place you have an e, so you dont need to change it anywhere else.

    9. 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. Thats why you cant have pag; 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: pagu pagamos pagaste pagasteis pag pagaron Again, note that only the yo form is affected; no other form has an e, so no other form gets gu.

    10. Unfortunately, theres no logical explanation for the change in car verbs. There just happens to be a rule in Spanish that says z cant come before e or i. If that happens, you have to change the z to a c: almorc almorzamos almorzaste almorzasteis almorz almorzaron You may be familiar with the plural of feliz: felices.

    11. Summary Verbs that end in car, -gar, and car are going to have a spelling change in the yo form: toqu tocamos pagu pagamos almorc almorzamos tocaste tocasteis pagaste pagasteis almorzaste almorzasteis toc tocaron pag pagaron almorz almorzaron

    12. Theres 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 Thats what happens with the third person preterit: leer ? le- + -i ? lei ? ley leer ? le- + -ieron ? leieron ? leyeron

    13. Click here to go to a practice exercise.

    14. -ir stem-changing verbs As was mentioned before, -ar and er verbs dont stem change. Present Preterit pensar pienso pensamos pens pensamos piensas pensis pensaste pensasteis piensa piensan pens pensaron volver vuelvo volvemos volv volvimos vuelves volvis volviste volvisteis vuelve vuelven volvi volvieron

    15. 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 pedir Preterit pido pedimos ped pedimos pides peds pediste pedisteis pide piden pidi pidieron In the preterit, -ir verbs stem change in the third person singular and plural ONLY.

    16. And thats not the end of the story. Not only do ir verbs stem change in the preterit where er and ar verbs dont; they change to just an i (never ie) or just a u never ue. Present Preterit sentir siento sentimos sent sentimos sientes sents sentiste sentisteis siente sienten sinti sintieron dormir duermo dormimos dorm dormimos duermes dorms dormiste dormisteis duerme duermen durmi durmieron

    17. Click here to go to a practice exercise.

    18. Irregular Verbs So far youve 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 dar fui fuimos di dimos fuiste fuisteis diste disteis fue fueron dio 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 its an ar verb but has er/-ir endings.

    19. All other irregular verbs get the same set of endings. Here are the irregular stems and the endings: querer quis- poner pus- poder pud- tener tuv- -e -imos estar estuv- -iste -isteis venir vin- -o -(i)eron saber sup- hacer hic- decir dij- traer traj- 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) dont get the i: dijeron, trajeron The third person of hacer undergoes a spelling change: hice hicimos In hice, hiciste, hicimos, etc., the c is pronounced like hiciste hicisteis an s. If we left the c in the third singular, however, it would be hizo hicimos pronounced like a k. To keep the s sound, you have to change the c to a z.

    20. Click here to go to a practice exercise.

    21. 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.

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