We use the preterite to talk about past events and facts that happened at a specific point in time. In order to form the preterite we need to remember certain rules. Let's start first with the regular verbs. Regular verbs have three different endings in the infinitive form, so by applying this rule you can conjugate them all. Then we have the irregular verbs. The changes in these verbs not always follow a clear pattern and so you will need to memorize many of them.
|Ud., él, ella||habló||comió||vivió|
|Uds., ellos, ellas||hablaron||comieron||vivieron|
As you can see, the verbs ending in –ar have a set of endings, whereas the verbs ending in –er and –ir share the same set of endings. The letters that are not coloured, are the stem of the verb, which do not change in regular verbs.
Look at these examples of conjugation:
Pedro habló (hablar) con María por teléfono ayer.
Pedro spoke to María on the phone yesterday.
Ellos comieron (comer) mucho anoche
Note: In the preterite, the nosotros form of –ar verbs looks the same as in the present. The context will help you understand if a text or speech refers to the present or the past.
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