Part II of: Beginner’s Guide: The Best Way to Learn the Past Tense in Spanish

This is the second part of “Beginner’s Guide: The Best Way to Learn the Past Tense in Spanish”.

When you speak with a friend, you have to talk about things that happened a few days, months or years ago. Talk in past is important too by knowing the history of a place, a country or someone special to you. If one of your New Year’s wishes is learn Spanish in Costa Rica, you are still on time. We invited you to continue reading and know more about the Past Tense in Spanish.

4. Tackle the conjugations of the preterit (preterite).

There are lots of irregular formations of the preterit tense, and it takes practice and some memorization. Here are the five major groups used by most traditional Spanish grammar sources:

  • Regular -ar, -er, -ir verb endings: All you have to do is drop the infinitive and add the correct preterit ending.
  • Common irregular preterites: These include ser, ir, dar, and ver.
  • Ir stem-changing verbs: Only -ir verbs that are stem-changing in the present tense have a stem change in the preterit. Just the first letter of the change is kept, and only in the third-person singular and third-person plural.
  • Verbs with irregular roots and irregular endings (think pud-, pus-, tuv-, anduv-, quis- etc.). Another breakdown of these irregulars can be found here
  • Verbs like caer, leer, roer, oír, and concluir: These infinitives contain a vowel in the last letter of the root, next to the vowel of the ending. The last letter of the stem changes to a -y in the third-person singular and third-person plural.

5. Memorize a few imperfect phrases and worry about the details later.

There’s always some confusion at first about when to use the imperfect. For now, here are some simple imperfect phrases to use right away. You’ll get better at recognizing when to use the imperfect the more you chat with native speakers:

  • Érase una vez: This phrase means “Once upon a time….”
  • De joven, cuando yo era niño/a…“: This phase launches you into a discussion of what you used to do and how you used to be when you were a very young child.
  • Cuando yo tenía 10 años — You use the imperfect to express age in the past.
  • Había: This one word means “there was” or “there were.”
  • Hacía calor, hacía frío, etc. (Weather conditions): When talking about the weather in the past, in general, you’ll be using the imperfect.

To really get the gist of the past in Spanish, come to Costa Rica and immerse yourself in the language and culture! Chat with native speakers about everyday events while you attend classes at CRLA, Costa Rica’s foremost Spanish language immersion school, the leader in the industry for over 25 years. For more information about taking your own customized classes with our expert teachers and enjoying the many benefits our school has to offer, such as culture classes, volunteer opportunities, and our homestay program, please contact us.