The Past Simple Tense - regular verbs
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  Verb Tenses  
    An introduction to verbs & personal pronouns  
    Verbs - Ser (to be) Estar (to be)  
    The present simple tense - regular verbs (I am)  
    The present simple tense - irregular verbs (I am)  
    The past simple tense - regular verbs (I was)  
    The past simple tense - irregular verbs (I was)  
    The imperfect tense - all verbs (I used to)  
    The future tense - all verbs (I will be)  
    The continuous tenses (I am going)  
    The perfect tenses - regular and irregular verbs  
    The conditional tense - regular and irregular verbs  
    The present subjunctive tense  
    The past subjunctive tense (If I were to)  
    The infinitive tense (verbs in their original forms - to be)  
    The imperative tense (command verbs - go / stay etc)  
    'Haber' with the conditional and past subjunctive tenses  
  More About Verbs  
    Reflexive verbs - Part 1  
    Reflexive verbs - Part 2  
    The 'Gerund' (the equivalent of forming 'ing...' verbs)  
    'Gustar' and similar verbs - A different way of using verbs  
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  All About Articles  
    Articles - definite / indefinite ('the' and 'a' in English)  
  All About Nouns  
    Nouns - Part 1 - (Masculine or feminine?)  
    Nouns - Part 2 - (Gender and forming plural nouns)  
  All About Adjectives  
    Adjectives - (Agreement and word order)  
    Adjectives - (Comparative and superlative)  
  All About Pronouns  
    Pronouns - object pronouns (direct / indirect)  
  Adjectives & Pronouns  
    Adjectives and Pronouns (demonstrative)  
    Adjectives and Pronouns (possessive)  
    Adjectives and pronouns (indefinite)  
  All About Adverbs  
    Adverbs - Part 1 - (words ending in -ly in English)  
    Adverbs - Part 2 - (Other forms / making comparisons)  
    An introduction to prepositions and relative pronouns  
    Prepositions - A comprehensive list with examples  
    Conjunctions - linking words  
  Questions & Negatives  
    Questions and negatives (question words)  

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Video Lessons
Summary of Lesson
When the past simple (preterite), tense is used, how it differs from the imperfect tense and how it compares to the past simple tense in English.
Looking at how AR / ER and IR regular verbs are formed in the past simple (preterite), tense.
A look at negatives and questions in the past simple (preterite), tense.
  What you can learn from this lesson
To understand how the past simple (preterite), tense is used in comparison to the English, past simple tense. Identifying when it is used in the same types of sentence structures as those in English and when in other types, the imperfect tense might be used instead.
To recognise and understand what happens to the structure of regular past simple (preterite), tense verbs when conjugated. (Ending changes.)
To appreciate the importance of accent marks when differentiating between verb conjugations in different tenses that have the same spelling.
To appreciate how questions and negatives are formed when using the past simple (preterite), tense.
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This first part of the lesson looks at when we use the past simple (preterite), tense in Spanish and how it compares to how we might use it in English.


The past simple (preterite), tense in Spanish is used to describe things that happened in the past in the same way that the past simple tense is used to talk about things that happened in the past in English. It is important to note that another past tense, (the imperfect tense) is also used in Spanish to talk about the past. The differences between the two will be explored later.


When it is used


As is the case in English the past simple (preterite), tense is used in Spanish:


1 - To talk about actions that were completed at a certain point in the past.


Ellos comieron la torta ayer. (They ate the cake yesterday.)

(Yo) compré una camisa la semana pasada. (I bought a shirt last week.)

Vosotros ganasteis la partida el año pasado ( You (all) won the match last year.)


2 - To talk about actions or events that went on for a certain amount of time in the past.


Él invierno duró demasiado.(The winter lasted too long!)

(Yo) trabajé todo el día sin una pausa. (I worked all day without a break.)


3 - To talk about actions that happened as part of a series of events in the past.


(Tú) fuiste a la tienda, compraste pan y regresaste. (You went to the shop, bought bread and came back.)

(Yo) me senté y leí un libro. (I sat down and read a book.)


When it isn’t used


There are some instances when the past simple (preterite), tense is not used in Spanish in the same way that the past simple tense is used in English. In Spanish another tense is used for talking about the past. It is called the imperfect tense and there is a separate lesson which explains this in more detail.


The imperfect tense is used in Spanish instead of the past simple (preterite), tense when:


1 - Talking about actions in the past that happened frequently.


Él tomaba mucho. (He drank a lot or, he used to drink a lot.)

Ellos nos cantaban todas las noches. (They sang to us every night or, they used to sing to us every night.)


Notice how in English ‘used to’ can be used. This is probably the best comparison there is of how the imperfect tense is used in English.


2 - Describing settings.


Estaba una playa enorme. (It was a huge beech.)

Estaba un día largo. (It was a long day.)




The second part of the lesson looks at how the past simple (preterite), tense is formed with regular verbs.


As with all verb tenses in Spanish there are different verb formation rules depending on whether a verb is regular or irregular. The past simple (preterite), tense is no exception.


If you have studied lessons 1 and 2 you will know that regular verbs are formed by changing their endings. The stems of the verbs do not change. The AR, ER or IR ending of the verb is taken off and replaced with something else.


Below are three regular verbs that have been conjugated (formed), using the past simple (preterite), tense. These formation rules are the same for all regular verbs and can therefore be learnt more easily.


personal pronoun caminar coser presumir
  (to walk) (to sew) (to presume)
yo caminé cosí presumí
caminaste cosiste presumiste
él/ella/usted caminó cosió presumió
nosotros/nosotras caminamos cosimos presumimos
vosotros/vosotras caminasteis cosisteis presumisteis
ellos/ellas/ustedes caminaron cosieron presumieron


Things to notice


1 - The last letter of the verb formation in the first person singular and third person plural has a tilde, (accent mark) é, í or ó.


If these accent marks were not used then the spelling would be exactly the same as verbs that are formed in other tenses.


camine = you should walk (present subjunctive tense)

caminé = I walked (past simple (preterite) tense)


camino = I walk (present simple tense)

caminó = he/she walked (past simple (preterite) tense)




The last part of the lesson looks at how the past simple (preterite), tense is used with questions and negatives. In English the words did or didn’t are used to form questions and negatives. In Spanish there is no direct translation for these words. Instead the word 'no' is used or the sentence is spoken by making the voice go up at the end of the sentence. There is a separate lesson on negatives and question which explains more.




(Yo) no lo robé. - I didn’t steal it.

Nosotros no fuimos a la escuela. - We didn’t go to school.

Ellos no compraron nada. - They didn’t buy any.




¿(Tú) leiste el libro? - Did you read the book?

¿Ellos tardaron? - Did they take long?

¿Él te habló? - Did he speak to you?


Of course when questions are written in Spanish, as they are in English it is the question mark that denotes whether or not the sentence is intended to be a question.


That concludes this lesson on the past simple (preterite), tense with regular verbs. If you have not done so already watch the actual video for this lesson and then try one of the associated quizzes to test your understanding.

The Past Simple Tense - regular verbs
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