Past tenses – part 1: Pretérito perfecto simple

Grammar: Spanish verbs

Past tenses – part 1:
Pretérito perfecto simple (Simple Past)

Pretérito perfecto simple or Pasado simple? This past tense has many names in Spanish:

  • Pretérito indefinido
  • Pretérito perfecto simple
  • Pasado simple

It is also called historical past tense. First, let’s look at how this tense is formed. To form the Pasado simple, we need to add the following endings to the stem:

Conjugation types-ar: hablar (to speak, to talk)-er: aprender (to learn)-ir: vivir (to live)
él, ella, ustedhablóaprendviv
ellos, ustedeshablaronaprendieronvivieron

When to use Pasado simple?

Using Spanish tenses correctly is easier than you might think, because they often correspond to English tenses. The safest way to choose the right tense is to memorize the situations in which it is used. Special indicator words will help you with this. So, remember the following situations:

  1. A specific date or point of time in the past:
  2. Mi hijo nació en 1985. My son was born in 1985.
    Me levanté a las 8 de la mañana. I got up at 8 o’clock in the morning.

  3. A list of completed actions in the past:
  4. Me levanté, desayuné y salí de casa. I got up, had breakfast and left the house.

  5. When the action refers to a period of time that has already ended:
  6. La semana pasada compré muchos libros. Last week I bought many books.
    El mes pasado estudié todos los días. Last month I studied every day.

Remember these indicator words for this tense:

  • ayer, anteayer
  • Ayer no fui a trabajar. I didn’t go to work yesterday.
    Anteayer ví a tu hermano. I saw your brother the day before yesterday.

  • anoche
  • Anoche me llamó el jefe. The boss called me last night.

  • hace unos días/meses/años
  • Hace unos días recibí un regalo. I got a present a few days ago.
    Hace un mes la empresa cerró. The company closed down a month ago.

  • el domingo pasado/la semana pasada/el siglo pasado etc.
  • El domingo pasado fuimos a un festival. Last Sunday we went to a festival.
    El siglo pasado se inventó el avión. The plane was invented in the last century.

  • A specific moment in the past:
  • En 1990 nos mudamos a otra ciudad. In 1990 we moved to a different city.
    El día de mi cumpleaños probé la cerveza por primera vez. On my birthday I tried beer for the first time.

Many verbs have irregular forms of Pasado simple. In the table below you will find the most important irregular verbs. However, we advise you to look up every new verb in the dictionary to make sure you are using it correctly.

Conjugation typesser/ir (to be/to go)estar (to be)poder (can)decir (to say)saber (to know)pedir (to ask for sth.)dormir (to sleep)
él, ella, ustedfueestuvopudodijosupopidiódurmió
ellos, ustedesfueronestuvieronpudierondijeronsupieronpidierondurmieron
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