Unit 3.1

Irregularities in the Preterite Indefinite

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Introduction

The preterite indefinite [pretérito indefinido] is a verb tense used to talk about past actions not related to the present tense, actions that have already finished.

Some verbs present irregularities [irregularidades] in the root and verbs that are completely irregular.

Form

The preterite indefinite has this structure:
(Subject +) verb [root + ending] + …

There are irregularities in the root and verbs that are completely irregular.

Irregularities in the root

Some verbs undergo root changes in the indefinite past tense, and in this case, the endings are: -e, -iste, -o, -imos, -isteis, -ieron.

Some of the main verbs with this irregularity are estar, hacer and tener:

Persona Estar Hacer Tener
Yo estuve hice tuve
estuviste hiciste tuviste
Él/Ella /Usted estuvo hizo tuvo
Nosotros/-as estuvimos hicimos tuvimos
Vosotros/-as estuvisteis hicisteis tuvisteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes estuvieron hicieron tuvieron

Other verbs with this irregularity are: andar (anduv-), caber (cup-), decir (dij-), poder (pud-), poner (pus-), querer (quis-), saber (sup-), traer (traj-) and venir (vin-).

Completely irregular verbs

Some verbs have roots, called suppletive roots, which are completely different from regular verbs and also have changes in the endings.

Some of these verbs are dar, ser / ir and ver:

Persona Dar Ser/Ir* Ver
Yo di fui vi
diste fuiste viste
Él/Ella/Usted dio fue vio
Nosotros/-as dimos fuimos vimos
Vosotros/-as disteis fuisteis visteis
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes dieron fueron vieron

* The verbs ser and ir have the same conjugated forms.

Example

Irregularities in the root:

  • Ayer estuve de compras en el centro comercial;
  • ¿Hiciste cola en la peluquería?
  • Tuvo que ir a la papelería a por tinta de impresora;
  • El otro día estuvimos en la tienda de ropa mirando pantalones;
  • ¿Hicisteis la compra de Navidad en la tienda de regalos?
  • Tuvieron clientes en la tienda todo el día.

Completely irregular verbs:

  • El mes pasado di una vuelta por la región;
  • ¿Fuiste a la discoteca de la esquina donde fue visto aquel famoso?
  • Vio palomas comiendo migas de pan junto al ayuntamiento;
  • Dimos un paseo por la enorme catedral;
  • ¿Fuisteis al castillo donde fueron derrotados los enemigos?
  • Fueron a la calle mayor a comer unos pinchos.

Use

The preterite indefinite is used

  • to speak of past actions that have already been completed and that occurred at a precise moment in time and have no relation to the present;
  • to talk about several actions that happened one after the other in the past;
  • in biographies and narratives;
  • with specific time markers:ayer; anoche, anteayer; hace un día/año/mes, la semana pasada, el mes/verano/año pasado, el otro día, un día, a finales del año pasado, la primera/segunda vez que…, en [año/mes], aquel/ese/el otro día, etc.

Summary

The preterite indefinite is a verb tense used to talk about past actions not related to the present tense, actions that have already finished.

It has the following formula:
(Subject +) Verb + complement + …

In Spanish, some verbs have the irregular forms of preterite indefinite; among them, some have changes in the stem such as estar, hacer, and tener; while other are completely irregular, for example, estar, ser, ir.

For example:
— «El mes pasado estuvimos de vacaciones durante dos semanas.» = The verb  estar is irregular in the indefinite past tense;
— «Anoche fuimos al cine.» = The verb ir is irregular in the indefinite past tense.

Check the contents of the {Form} section. Then move on to the {Example} section, which shows you the usage in context.

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