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Preterite

Grammar Glossary for Spanish Students

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Preterite

Se puso el sol. (The sun set.) Photo taken at Pichilemu, Chile.

Photo by McKay Savage; licensed via Creative Commons.

Definition: The verb tense that expresses action taking place at a definite time in the past. It is contrasted with the imperfect tense, which expresses action that took place at an indefinite time or has not been completed. The preterite is the tense that would normally be thought of as the simple past tense in English.

Also known as: simple past tense, pretérito indefinido or pretérito perfecto simple in Spanish

Alternative spelling: preterit

Examples:

  • Pablo cantó. (Pablo sang.)
  • Ana escribió la carta. (Ana wrote the letter).
  • Guillermo conocí a mi madre. (Guillermo met my mother.) (Note that conocer can mean "to know" or "to meet." The translation of "met" is used because the use of the preterite indicates that an event happened at a specific time.)
  • Se puso el sol. (The sun set.)

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