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Pretérito perfecto simple (indefinido) in Spanish

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The pretérito perfecto simple is a form of the verb that is used to talk about actions that were completed in the past in Spanish. It often corresponds to the simple past in English, as in I bought a new bike (compré una bicicleta nueva).

What is the pretérito perfecto simple (simple past) in Spanish?

The simple past (Spanish: el pretérito perfecto simple) is one of the most used past tenses in Spanish. We use it to talk about:

  • completed actions in the past.
  • actions completed at a definite, specific moment in the past

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Regular and irregular verb conjugations

In Spanish there are regular and irregular forms.

  • regular forms: follow a pattern
  • irregular forms: do not follow the patterns and sometimes they change the root of the verb, the endings or both

Regular conjugation of the pretérito perfecto simple

The regular conjugation is formed by dropping the endings -ar, -er, -ir of the infinitive form and adding the following endings:

  • for verbs ending in -ar with -é, -aste, -ó, -amos, -asteis, -aron
  • for verbs ending in -er, with -í, -iste, -ió, -imos, -isteis, -ieron
  • for verbs ending in -ir, with -í, -iste, -ió, -imos, -isteis, -ieron
pronouns-ar verbs conjugated-er verbs conjugated-ir verbs conjugated
 Hablar (to speak)Comer (to eat)Vivir (to live)
Yohablécomíviví
hablastecomisteviviste
Él/Ellahablócomvivió
Nosotros/-ashablamoscomimosvivimos
Vosotros/-ashablasteiscomisteisvivisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedeshablaroncomieronvivieron

Examples:

  • Hablé con mi madre. (I spoke to my mum)
  • Comimos muy tarde. (We had luch very late)
  • Viví 6 años en París (I lived for 6 years in Paris)

enlightenedAttention: Note, that the first and third persons singular have tilde (written accent mark). This can change the meaning and the subject of a sentence.

  • With a tilde: Cantó una canción. (He/She sang a song)
  • Without a tilde: Canto una canción. (I sing a song)

Irregular conjugation of the pretérito perfecto simple

Irregular conjugations need to be memorized by heard. We have different types of irregular verbs:

  • Completely irregular verbs
  • Verbs with spelling changes
  • Stem-changing verbs

Completely irregular verbs

Here you have some examples of the most common verbs that are completely irregular:

ser (to be) 
Yofui
fuiste
Él/Ellafue
Nosotros/-asfuimos
Vosotros/-asfuisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedesfueron

 

ir (to go) 
Yofui
fuiste
Él/Ellafue
Nosotros/-asfuimos
Vosotros/-asfuisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedesfueron

 

dar (to give) 
Yodi
diste
Él/Elladio
Nosotros/-asdimos
Vosotros/-asdisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedesdieron

 

ver (to see) 
Yovi
viste
Él/Ellavio
Nosotros/-asvimos
Vosotros/-asvisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedesvieron

 

estar (to be) 
Yoestuve
estuviste
Él/Ellaestuvo
Nosotros/-asestuvimos
Vosotros/-asestuvisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedesestuvieron

 

tener (to have) 
Yotuve
tuviste
Él/Ellatuvo
Nosotros/-astuvimos
Vosotros/-astuvisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedestuvieron

 

poder (can/ to be able to) 
Yopude
pudiste
Él/Ellapudo
Nosotros/-aspudimos
Vosotros/-aspudisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedespudieron

 

poner (to put) 
Yopuse
pusiste
Él/Ellapuso
Nosotros/-aspusimos
Vosotros/-aspusisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedespusieron

 

 querer (to want) 
Yoquise
quisiste
Él/Ellaquiso
Nosotros/-asquisimos
Vosotros/-asquisisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedesquisieron

 

hacer (to do/to make) 
Yohice
hiciste
Él/Ellahizo
Nosotros/-ashicimos
Vosotros/-ashicisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedeshicieron

 

decir (to say) 
Yodije
dijiste
Él/Elladijo
Nosotros/-asdijimos
Vosotros/-asdijisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedesdijeron

 

saber (to know) 
Yosupe
supiste
Él/Ellasupo
Nosotros/-assupimos
Vosotros/-assupisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedessupieron

Examples:

  • No pude ir. (I couldn't go)
  • Estuve enferma la semana pasada. (I was ill last week)
  • Hizo un pastel de cumpleaños. (She made a birthday cake)

Verbs with spelling changes

Some changes are required because of Spanish spelling rules to keep the sound of the consonants c and g with que and gue as well as to maintain the soft sound before  i and e with c. Note that this changes apply to the yo form only.

Verbs ending in -car: c → qu

Infinitive in -carFirst-person singular (yo)
explicar (to explain)expliqué (explicaste, explicó…)
practicar (to practice)practiqué (practicaste, practicó…)
buscar (to search/to look for)busqué (buscaste, buscó…)
tocar (to touch)toqué (tocaste, tocó…)

Verbs ending in -gar: g → gu

Infinitive in -garFirst-person singular (yo)
llegar (to arrive)llegué (llegaste, llegó…)
jugar (to play)jugué (jugaste, jugó…)
negar (to deny)negué (negaste, negó…)
pagar (to pay)pagué (pagaste, pagó…)

Verbs ending in -zar: z→ c

Infinitive in -zarFirst-person singular (yo)
comenzar (to begin)comencé (comenzaste, comenzó…)
realizar (to perform)realicé (realizaste, realizó…)
empezar (to begin)empecé (empezaste, empezó…)
almorzar (to have lunch)almorcé (almorzaste, almorzó…)

 

Other spelling changes i → y

In order to maintain the pronunciation of some verbs ending in -er or -ir, the 3rd person singular and 3rd person plural change i→ y Here are some examples:

 leer (to read)oir (to hear)creer  (to believe)
Yoleícreí
leísteoístecreíste
Él/ellaleyóoyócreyó
Nosotros/-asleímosoímoscreímos
Vosotros/-asleísteisoísteiscreísteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedesleyeronoyeroncreyeron

 

Stem-changing verbs

As in the present tense, there is a pattern of stem-changes in the Spanish verb conjugations. Remember that:

  • -ar verbs with stem-changes in the present tense do not have stem-changes in the past.
  • -ir verbs with stem changes in the present tense also have stem changes in the past tense in two ways: e → i  and  o→u

e → i

 elegir (to choose)mentir (to lie)reir  (to laugh)
Yoelegímentíreí
elegistementistereíste
Él/ellaeligiómintiórió
Nosotros/-aselegimosmentimosreímos
Vosotros/-aselegisteismentisteisreísteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedeseligieronmintieronrieron
 repetir (to repeat)pedir (to ask for)preferir (to prefer)
Yorepetípedípreferí
repetistepedistepreferiste
Él/ellarepitiópidióprefirió
Nosotros/-asrepetimospedimospreferimos
Vosotros/-asrepetisteispedisteispreferisteis
Ellos, ellas, ustedesrepitieronpidieronprefirieron

 

o→u

In the verbs dormir and morir, in the 3 persons singular and 3rd person plural, the root vowel o changes to u

 dormir (to sleep)morir (to die)
Yodormímorí
dormistemoriste
Él/elladurmiómurió
Nosotros/-asdormimosmorimos
Vosotros/-asdormisteismoristeis
Ellos, ellas, ustedesdurmieronmurieron

 

When to use the pretérito perfecto simple

In Spanish we use different types of past tenses to communicate different ideas. Here you have the situations where you use the pretérito perfecto simple (simple past):

Completed actions in the past

An action completed at a specific moment in the past.

  • El avión aterrizó a las doce en punto. (The plane landed at four o’clock.)
  • Mi hermana nació el 6 de mayo de 1994. (My sister was born on May 6th 1994.)

Continuous actions in the past 

For an action or event that lasted for a specific period of time when you can determine how long the action took place.

  • Esperó dos horas en la estación. (He waited for two hours at the station).
  • Habló durante una hora sin parar. (He spoke for one hour non stop)

Series of actions in the past

For series of actions or events completed in the past even if you cannot determine when these actions took place or for how long.

  • Me levantédesayuné, me duché y me fui a trabajar. (I woke up, had breakfast, took a shower and went to work.)
  • Llegué, abrí la puerta y la fiesta sorpresa. (I arrived, opened the door and saw the suprise party.)

Actions that are not repeated

For actions that are not usually repeated using the following expressions:

expressiontranslationexample
cumplir añosto turn a specific age

Mi hija cumplió 4 años.

My daughter turned 4.
darse cuenta de to realize

Me di cuenta de que estaba equivocada.

I realised I was wrong.
decidirto decide

Decidí mudarme a París.

I decided to move to Paris.

descubrirto discover

Roentgen descubrió los rayos X en 1895.

Roentgen discovered  X-rays in 1895.
graduarseto graduate

Me gradué hace varios años.

I graduated a few years ago
morirto die

Él murió a los 85 años.

He died at 85 years of age.

 

Marker words of the pretérito perfecto simple

With these words we will always use the pretérito perfecto simple (simple past):

SpanishEnglish
ayeryesterday
la semana pasadalast week
el año pasadolast year
el 5 de diciembre de 1985December, 5th 1985
anochelast night
despuésafter
hace 3 días3 days ago
el miércolesWednesday
en el año 2006in 2006
de repentesuddenly

Examples sentences

  • El 5 de Diciembre fue mi cumpleaños. (My birthday was the 5th of december.)
  • Apareció de repente. (He suddenly showed up
  • Ayer comí pasta. (I had pasta yesterday)

Example text

Mi primer viaje a Francia me llevó a París, donde estuve tres semanas. En el aeropuerto nos esperó la guía Vanessa que nos llevó a nuestro apartamento. Primero pasamos unos días en el norte de la ciudad. Allí hicimos un tour por Montmartre, el barrio de los artistas, ubicado en una colina. Allí estuvimos cuatro días.

Translation

My first trip to France took me to Paris, where I stayed for three weeks. At the airport we were greeted by Vanessa, the guide who took us to our apartment. First we spent a few days in the north of the city. There, we did a tour of Montmartre, the neighborhood of the artists, located on a hill. We stayed there for four days.

 


Exercises

  1. Use the pretérito perfecto simple to complete the sentences.
  2. ¿Do you know how to conjugate irregular verbs in Pretérito Perfecto Simple?
  3. Exercise to practice the Pretérito perfecto simple

Use the pretérito perfecto simple to complete the sentences.


¿Do you know how to conjugate irregular verbs in Pretérito Perfecto Simple?


Exercise to practice the Pretérito perfecto simple


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