You are on page 1of 2

Irregular Verbs In The Spanish Preterite Tense

The preterite is one of the two main past tenses used in Spanish. In fact of the two past tenses (the imperfect tense being the other one!) it is probably used the most. Unfortunately, in Spanish, if a specific verb or tense is used a great deal, it is usually the case that there are a great number of irregularities to be learned. The only good thing about this is that the most difficult parts of verb use are practiced daily. In order to learn irregular verbs in the Spanish preterite one must know the regular formation of this tense. As you are no doubt aware there are three groups of verbs in Spanish, the -er, -ar and -ir verb groups. Each of these three verb groups usually has specific endings for each separate tense, although the er and -ir verb groups often share the same endings depending upon which tense is being used...the preterite is one tense in particular when this is the case. Regular Verb Endings in the Spanish Preterit Here are the regular endings (in bold) for each group of verbs in the preterite tense. Esperar (an -ar verb meaning to wait) yo esper-é - I waited; tú esper-aste - you waited (familiar); él/ella esper-ó - he/she/it waited; usted esper-ó - you waited (polite); nosotros esper-amos- we waited; vosotros esper-asteis-you waited (familiar); ellos/ellas esper-aron-they waited; ustedes esper-aron- you waited (polite) Escribir (an -ir verb meaning to write) yo escrib-í - I wrote; tú escrib-iste - you wrote (familiar); él/ella escrib-ió - he/she/it wrote; usted escrib-ió - you wrote (polite); nosotros escrib-imos - we wrote; vosotros escrib-isteis - you wrote (familiar); ellos/ellas escrib-ieron - they wrote; ustedes escrib-ieron - you wrote (polite) Aprender (an -ir verb meaning to learn) yo aprend-í - I learnt; tú aprend-iste - you learnt (familiar); él/ella aprend-ió - h/she/it learnt; usted aprend-ió - you learnt (polite); nosotros aprend-imos - we learnt; vosotros aprend-isteis - you learnt (familiar); ellos/ellas aprend-ieron - they learnt; ustedes aprend-ieron - you learnt (polite) As you can see, the -er and -ir verb groups follow the exact same formation in the preterite, which does make the task of learning this tense a little easier, however this may be the case for those verbs that use regular verb endings but not those that don't...they are a completely different kettle of fish. Irregular Verb Endings in the Spanish Preterit There are many verbs in Spanish that have irregularities in the preterite tense and to list them all would be too big a job for this article alone, instead, I will concentrate on only those verbs that are affected greatly by irregularity and that are the most commonly used. Needless to say the most commonly used verbs that have irregularities in the preterite, are amongst those that pose most of us who are learning Spanish the most problems; ser and estar (to be), haber and tener (to have), hacer (to do) and ir (to go), although there are certainly other well used verbs that are worthy of note, in particular; decir (to say); venir (to come); querer (to want); poder (to be able to); poner (to put); dar (to give) and quite a few others.

However, I will begin by conjugating the most commonly used verbs: (All irregularities will be in bold.) Ser (to be) yo fui - I was; tú fuiste - you were (familiar); él/ella fue - he/she/it was; usted fue - you were (polite); nosotros fuimos - we were; vosotros fuisteis - you were (familiar); ellos/ellas fueron - they were; ustedes fueron - you were (polite) Estar (to be) yo est-uve - I was; tú est-uviste - you were (familiar); él/ella est-uvo - he/she/it was; usted est-uvo you were (polite); nosotros est-uvimos - we were; vosotros est-uvisteis - you were (familiar); ellos/ellas est-uvieron - they were; ustedes est-uvieron - you were (polite) Haber (to have) yo hube - I had; tú hubiste - you had (familiar); él/ella hubo - he/she/it had; usted hubo - you had (polite); nosotros hubimos - we had; vosotros hubisteis - you had (familiar); ellos/ellas hubieron - they had; ustedes hubieron - you had (polite) Tener (to have) yo tuve - I had; tú tuviste - you had (familiar); él/ella tuvo - he/she/it had; usted tuvo - you had (polite); nosotros tuvimos - we had; vosotros tuvisteis - you had (familiar); ellos/ellas tuvieron - they had; ustedes tuvieron - you had (polite) Hacer (to do, make) yo hice - I did; tú hiciste - you did (familiar); él/ella hizo - he/she/it did; usted hizo - you did (polite); nosotros hicimos - we did; vosotros hicisteis - you did (familiar); ellos/ellas hicieron - they did; ustedes hicieron - you did (polite) Ir (to go) yo fui - I went; tú fuiste - you went (familiar); él/ella fue - he/she/it went; usted fue - you went (polite); nosotros fuimos - we went; vosotros fuisteis - you went (familiar); ellos/ellas fueron - they went; ustedes fueron - you went (polite) For the more observant of you who will have noticed, I'm sure, that the preterite of both ser and ir are the same! This is not a typo! It is in fact a strange anomaly of the Spanish language and is one that must be treated with caution. The only way you can tell if someone is saying that 'they were' or 'they went' is from the context in which the verb is used. For example: Fui al supermercado clearly means 'I went to the supermarket' and not 'I was to the supermarket.' Verb ser