Spanish Verbs: Preterite Tense

The preterite tense in Spanish is used for communicating actions that occurred in the past that have been completed. These actions have a definite beginning and ending. They may be actions that occurred repeatedly but for a specific number of times, single events, or actions that were part of chain of events. To learn more about how and when to use the preterite form of past tense read Preterite vs Imperfect. Below we'll explore how to conjugate -ar, -er and -ir verbs in the preterite.

-ar Verbs in the Preterite

Conjugating -ar verbs in the preterite is easy, just drop the -ar ending and add one of the following:

  • aste
  • amos
  • asteis
  • aron

Read and listen to the conjugations of the -ar verb hablar in the preterite listed below, then repeat each one out loud.
I spoke
yo habl
you spoke (familiar)
t hablaste
you spoke (formal)
usted habl
he spoke
l habl
we spoke
nosotros hablamos
you spoke (familiar plural)
vosotros hablasteis
you spoke (formal plural)
ustedes hablaron
they spoke
ellos hablaron

-er and -ir Verbs in the Preterite

-er and -ir verbs are conjugated the same way in the preterite. Just drop the -er or -ir ending and replace it with the following:

  • iste
  • i
  • imos
  • isteis
  • ieron

Read and listen to the conjugations of the -er verb comer and -ir verb vivir in the preterite listed below, then repeat each one out loud.
I ate
yo com
you ate (familiar)
t comiste
you ate (formal)
usted comi
he ate
l comi
we ate
nosotros comimos
you ate (familiar plural)
vosotros comisteis
you ate (formal plural)
ustedes comieron
they ate
ellos comieron


I lived
yo viv
you lived (familiar)
t viviste
you lived (formal)
usted vivi
he lived
l vivi
we lived
nosotros vivimos
you lived (familiar plural)
vosotros vivisteis
you lived (formal plural)
ustedes vivieron
they lived
ellos vivieron