Regular and Irregular Verbs in the Past Tense in Spanish

In everyday interactions, it is very common to find ourselves talking about past events in Spanish, things that happened recently or that happened a long time ago. In this lesson, we will learn the basic rules for the past tense in Spanish, also called the preterite tense, through simple explanations and some examples. Comencemos…

The past tense in Spanish of regular and irregular verbs

We can refer to the past tense in Spanish as “El pretérito perfecto simple”, “El pretérito indefinido” or simply as “El pasado simple”. Just like in English, the preterite or past tense will be used for actions that happened at some time in the past and have already finished. Verbs in the the preterite tense in Spanish will change just the same way verbs in the present tense do, depending on the subject of the sentence. Know that you will also find irregular verbs in the past tense.

Regular verbs in the past tense in Spanish

As you can see in the chart below, the stem of regular verbs in the past tense in Spanish will not change at all, only their ending. Keep two things in mind; first, the endings used for –ER and –IR verbs like COMER and ABRIR are identical, and second, the conjugations for the pronouns YO, ÉL, ELLA and USTED in the past will always need a tilde in the last vowel.

The past tense in Spanish of regular verbs / El pretérito de los verbos regulares en español
El pretérito indefinido de los verbos regulares en español

Grammar Quiz: Spanish Regular Verbs in The Past Tense.

It’s time to test if you understood the rules for the past tense of regular verbs in Spanish. This short quiz includes several interesting exercises about this topic. You will get your score at the end of the quiz. Click on “Start Quiz” when you are ready.

Irregular verbs in the past tense in Spanish

A lot of the verbs that are considered irregular in the present tense will also be considered irregular in the past tense in Spanish, including verbs like “caber”, “dar”, “poder”, “saber” and others. Below, we show you a list of six really important and common irregular verbs in Spanish in the past tense.

DECIR: Yo dije, Tú dijiste, Él dijo, Nosotros dijimos, Vosotros dijisteis, Ellos dijeron.
ESTAR: Yo estuve, Tú estuviste, Él estuvo, Nosotros estuvimos, Vosotros estuvisteis, Ellos estuvieron.
HACER: Yo hice, tú hiciste, él hizo, nosotros hicimos, vosotros hicisteis, ellos hicieron.
IR: Yo fui, tú fuiste, él fue, nosotros fuimos, vosotros fuisteis, ellos fueron.
SER: Yo fui, tú fuiste, él fue, nosotros fuimos, vosotros fuisteis, ellos fueron.
TENER: Yo tuve, tú tuviste, él tuvo, nosotros tuvimos, vosotros tuvisteis, ellos tuvieron.

There are many other irregular verbs in the past tense in Spanish besides the above-mentioned. The verb SER may be confusing at times because it has more conjugations in the past tense, apart from the the ones above. SER may also be conjugated like this: Yo era, tú eras, él era, nosotros eramos, vosotros erais, ellos eran. Using these forms or the ones in the chart will be the subject of a another lesson.

Grammar quiz: The preterite of Spanish irregular verbs

¡Es hora de practicar! This short quiz will test if you can recognize the past tense of some common Spanish irregular verbs in the past tense. Follow the instructions to complete each exercise.

Talking about past events in Spanish – Los eventos del pasado

It is time to see these verbs in use through real examples. We will make use of both regular and irregular verbs in Spanish in the past tense, including some of the ones presented above and a few others. These sentences follow a very basic structure and will use a few useful connectors to link the ideas and you will see some specific words used in the past tense in Spanish such as “ayer” (yesterday), “la semana pasada” (last week) and so on.

Una visita al zoológico
La semana pasada fuimos al zoológico. Vimos varios animales interesantes y aprendimos muchas cosas sobre ellos también. Cuando miramos al gorila, mi amigo trató de tomar una foto pero el gorila se enojó. Luego, vimos a los leones. También tomamos fotos de los leones. Escuchamos las aves cantar y a los monos aullar. Para finalizar el paseo, miramos los pingüinos. Ellos nadaron muy cerca de nosotros.
Read translation: A visit to the zoo in Spanish
Last week, we went to the zoo. We saw several interesting animals and learned many things about them too. When we saw a gorilla, my friend tried to take a picture but the gorilla became angry. Then we saw the lions. We also took pictures of the lions. We heard the birds sing and the monkeys howl. To finish the visit, we watched the penguins. They swam very close to us.
Francisco: ¿Qué hiciste (tú) el fin de semana pasado?
Jorge: Yo estudié todo el fin de semana. Hoy tenemos un examen. ¿Tú estudiaste?
Francisco: Yo no estudié. Ayer fui de paseo con mi familia. Nosotros fuimos a la playa. Mi mamá nadó toda la mañana. Mis hermanos también nadaron bastante. Comí pescado. Estaba delicioso.
Jorge: Vaya, tú disfrutaste mucho entonces. Yo salí a tomar un café con Carmen y miramos una película después de estudiar.
Read translation: Our weekend
Francisco: What did you do last weekend?
Jorge: I studied all weekend. Today we have an exam. Did you study?
Francisco: I did not study. Yesterday I went for a walk with my family. We went to the beach. My mom swam all morning. My brothers also swam a lot. I ate fish. It was delicious.
Jorge: Wow, you really enjoyed your weekend then. I went out for coffee with Carmen and watched a movie after studying.