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Forming the Preterit

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 –ar and one for –er/-ir verbs. hablar comer/vivir -é -amos -í -imos

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Forming the Preterit

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  1. Forming thePreterit

  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 -é -amos -í -imos -aste -asteis -iste -isteis -ó -aron -ió -ieron Drop the –ar/-er/-ir and then add the endings. hablé hablamos comí comimos viví vivimos hablaste hablasteis comiste comisteis viviste vivisteis habló hablaron comió comieron vivió vivieron

  4. ACCENT MARKS ARE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!!! Look what happens if you leave off an accent mark: hablé hablamos hablaste hablasteis habló hablaron Without the accent mark, you have “I speak” (hablo) instead of “he spoke” (habló). You don’t know it yet, but if you leave off the accent mark in “hablé,” that means something different too.

  5. Note that, while the “vosotros” form looks intimidating, it’s simply the “tú” form with “-is” added to it. -é -amos -í -imos -aste -asteis -iste -isteis -ó -aron -ió -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 don’t stem change. -ir verbs do, but that will be discussed in a later section. volver salir pensar vuelve  volvió salgo  salí piensas  pensaste he returns  he returned I leave  I left you think  you thought All the practice exercises will be done as above. You’re given, for example, “vuelve” and must change it to “volvió.”

  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 “tocé,” right? But think about how a “c” sounds when it comes before an “e” or an “i.” It sounds like an “s.” “Tocé” would sound like “tosé.” 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”: toqué tocamos tocaste tocasteis tocó tocaron Note that you change it only in the “yo” form; that’s the only place you have an “e,” so you don’t 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.” That’s why you can’t have “pagé”; 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”: pagué pagamos pagaste pagasteis pagó pagaron Again, note that only the “yo” form is affected; no other form has an “e,” so no other form gets “gu.”

  10. Unfortunately, there’s no logical explanation for the change in –car verbs. There just happens to be a rule in Spanish that says “z” can’t come before “e” or “i.” If that happens, you have to change the “z” to a “c”: almorcé almorzamos almorzaste almorzasteis almorzó 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: toqué tocamos pagué pagamos almorcé almorzamos tocaste tocasteis pagaste pagasteis almorzaste almorzasteis tocó tocaron pagó pagaron almorzó almorzaron

  12. There’s 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 That’s what happens with the third person preterit: leer  le- + -ió  leió  leyó leer  le- + -ieron  leieron  leyeron

  13. Clickheretogotoapracticeexercise.

  14. -ir stem-changing verbs As was mentioned before, -ar and –er verbs don’t stem change. Present Preterit pensar pienso pensamos pensé pensamos piensas pensáis pensaste pensasteis piensa piensan pensó pensaron volver vuelvo volvemos volví volvimos vuelves volvéis volviste volvisteis vuelve vuelven volvió 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 pedí pedimos pides pedís pediste pedisteis pide piden pidió pidieron In the preterit, -ir verbs stem change in the third person singular and plural ONLY.

  16. And that’s not the end of the story. Not only do –ir verbs stem change in the preterit where –er and –ar verbs don’t; they change to just an “i” (never “ie”) or just a “u” never “ue.” Present Preterit sentir siento sentimos sentí sentimos sientes sentís sentiste sentisteis siente sienten sintió sintieron dormir duermo dormimos dormí dormimos duermes dormís dormiste dormisteis duerme duermen durmió durmieron

  17. Click here to go to a practice exercise.

  18. Irregular Verbs So far you’ve 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 it’s 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) don’t 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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