Read an Excerpt
CliffsQuickReview Spanish I
By Jill Rodriguez
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-6387-4
Chapter OneTHE PRETERIT TENSE
Conjugating regular verbs in the preterit tense
Predicting spelling changes in the yo form
Understanding stem changing verbs in the preterit
Learning the patterns of irregular preterit verbs
Using the preterit tense in appropriate situations
There are two past tenses in Spanish: the preterit and the imperfect. This chapter provides a clear explanation of the preterit tense. In addition to the regular patterns of verb forms in the preterit, there are many irregular preterit forms and some spelling changes to learn. To differentiate between the two Spanish past tenses, you learn the situations where the preterit tense is appropriate. You will also learn a list of special vocabulary words called indicators that help you know when to use the preterit tense.
Regular Verbs in the Preterit Tense
To conjugate a regular verb in the preterit tense, remove the infinitive ending and add the appropriate endings. For an -ar verb that is regular in the preterit, use the endings from Table 11-1. (Not all verbs that are regular in the present tense are regular in the preterit. Preterit irregulars will be presented later in this chapter.)
The endings are a little confusing because the el, ella, and usted forms end in -o in the preterit tense, but the yo form ends in-o (no accent) in the p resent tense. Be sure to notice the accent mark on the preterit forms because that is the only difference. The yo form of all regular preterit verbs always has an accent mark as well. Don't forget to pronounce these word s with the stress on the last syllable.
Also notice that regular -ar verbs will have the same nosotros form in the preterit as they do in the present tense. The only way you will know whether an -ar verb in the nosotros form is in the preterit or present tense is the context of the sentence. Later in this chapter you will learn specific vocabulary words that serve as preterit indicators. If you see one of these words in the sentence, you will know the verb is conjugated in the preterit tense.
Hablar (to speak) is a regular verb in the preterit, so it will serve as a good example. Table 11-2 is a conjugation chart for the verb hablar in the preterit tense. Since the preterit is a past tense, these forms translate to the English past tense form "spoke."
Table 11-3 shows that the endings for -er verbs and -ir verbs are the same for regular verbs in the preterit tense.
Notice that the nosotros/nosotras form of an -ir verb looks exactly the same in both the present and preterit tenses, but an -er verb has a different nosotros form in the preterit. The nosotros/nosotras form in the present tense is the only form where -er and -ir verbs are different. Since all of the endings are completely the same for -er and -ir verbs in the preterit, the nosotros/nosotras forms will be tricky for a while.
Comer (to eat) is an -er verb that has regular preterit endings. Look carefully at the preterit verb forms in Table 11-4, which are translated to the English past tense form "ate."
The verb escribir (to write) is a regular -ir verb in the preterit. Table 11-5, which shows the English past tense form of wrote, is a good example of regular -ir verb forms in the preterit tense.
Different Yo Forms in the Preterit Tense
In Chapter 1, I discuss the spelling and pronunciation rules of Spanish . These rules are extremely consistent, and some times a conjugated form of the verb must change its spelling to maintain the correct pronunciation. This happens in the yo form of specific verbs in the preterit tense, because adding -i or -e to the base of the verb messes up the pronunciation of the word. The spelling change is meant to maintain the same basic sound as the infinitive.
Verbs that end in -gar
Remember that the consonant g is pronounced hard (like the g in good) or soft (like the g in gym) depending on the vowel that follows the g. If a Spanish verb ends in -gar, the infinitive is pronounced with a hard g sound. However, when you remove the -ar infinitive ending and add the yo preterit ending, the hard g is suddenly followed by -e and would be pronounced as a soft g. To maintain the hard g sound of the infinitive, the letter u is added between the g and e. This creates the hard g sound that resembles the infinitive pronunciation.
Whenever you see a verb ending in -gue, you can assume the u is only there to produce the correct hard g sound, and you don't pronounce the u. The ending sounds like the English synonym for happy-"gay."
To simplify matters, remember that a verb that ends in -gar will change g- to gu- in the yo form of the preterit. Table 11-6 is the preterit conjugation chart for the verb pagar (to pay) which serves as a good example.
The following verbs are all regular -ar verbs in the preterit tense, and since they all end in -gar, you must change the g to gu in the yo form and then use the regular yo ending. All other preterit forms of these verbs are completely regular forms for a regular -ar verb in the preterit tense.
agregar (to add) preterit yo form = agregue
apagar (to extinguish, to turn off ) preterit yo form = apague
cargar (to load) preterit yo form = cargue
encargar (to put in charge, to entrust) preterit yo form = encargue
entregar (to hand in, to hand over) preterit yo form = entregue
jugar (to play a sport) preterit yo form = jugue
llegar (to arrive) preterit yo form = llegue
obligar (to compel, to oblige) preterit yo form = obligue
pegar (to beat, to glue) preterit yo form = pegue
Verbs that end in -car
The Spanish letter c is a lot like the letter g. It has a hard sound (like the English letter k) and a soft sound (like the English letter s). The c is pronounced soft when it's followed by -i or -e. The c is pronounced hard when it's followed by -o, -a, or -u. Any verb that ends in -car will have the hard c sound in its infinitive form. This must be maintained in all the conjugated forms, but the preterit yo ending causes problems. When you add -e to the base of a verb ending in -car, the c becomes a soft sound, which is unacceptable. So you must change the letter c to qu only in the yo preterit form. The resulting ending (-que) is pronounced like the English name Kay. The combination of letters -qu is always pronounced like the English letter k, and you never say the u sound. It is never pronounced like the English word queen. Table 11-7 is the preterit conjugation chart for the verb tocar (to play an instrument, to touch), which is an example for all regular -ar verbs in the preterit that end in -car. A list of other verbs that end in -car follows Table 11-7 and will be conjugated like tocar.
To simplify the rule: if a verb ends in -car, change c to qu in the yo form of the preterit.
Some common verbs that end in -car:
aplicar (to apply) preterit yo form = aplique
buscar (to seek, to look for) preterit yo form = busque
colocar (to place, to put) preterit yo form = coloque
comunicar (to communicate) preterit yo form = comunique
dedicar (to dedicate) preterit yo form = dedique
educar (to educate) preterit yo form = eduque
explicar (to explain) preterit yo form = explique
fabricar (to make, to manufacture) preterit yo form = fabrique
indicar (to indicate) preterit yo form = indique
marcar (to mark) preterit yo form = marque
masticar (to chew) preterit yo form = mastique
pescar (to fish) preterit yo form = pesque
publicar (to publish) preterit yo form = publique
sacar (to take out) preterit yo form = saque
significar (to mean) preterit yo form = signifique
Verbs that end in -zar
Chapter 1 discusses a simple rule about the letter z in Spanish-whenever z is followed by e, it changes to c. This rule becomes important in the preterit tense because the verbs that end in -zar will change spelling in the yo form. Since the yo form has the ending -e, the z must change to c. Look at the preterit conjugation of the verb cruzar (to cross) in Table 11-8 as an example.
Common verbs that end in -zar:
abrazar (to embrace, to hug) preterit yo form = abrace
alcanzar (to reach) preterit yo form = alcance
amenazar (to threaten) preterit yo form = amenace
avanzar (to advance) preterit yo form = avance
gozar (to enjoy) preterit yo form = goce
lanzar (to throw) preterit yo form = lance
realizar (to fulfill, to realize preterit yo form = realice [one's dream])
rezar (to pray) preterit yo form = rece
tropezar (to stumble, to trip) preterit yo form = tropece
When the stem of the verb ends in a vowel, some spelling changes are necessary in certain forms in the preterit. This special spelling change only happens in the preterit tense and is not considered a stem changer. If there a re three vowels in a row and the middle one is the letter i, you must change the i to y. The preterit endings for -er and -ir verbs will cause the i>y spelling change to happen in the third person forms (el, ella, usted, ellos, ellas, and ustedes) and an accent will be added to any other letter -i in the base of the verb in the conjugation chart. Table 11-9 is a conjugation chart of the verb caer (to fall). It serves as an example so look carefully at the accent marks. Consider the el form of the verb. If you simply added the ending -io to the base of the verb ca-, the result would be caio. Since there a re three vowels and the middle one is the letter i, it changes to y in the chart. Notice this also happens to the third person plural form of the verb.
Other verbs that have a base ending in a vowel will be conjugated like caer. For example:
creer to believe
leer to read
oir to hear
poseer to posses
There are many verbs that end in -uir. Following are a few common -uir verbs, but remember to use the "i to y" change in the third person forms of any verb that ends in -uir.
construir to construct, to build
contribuir to contribute
distribuir to distribute
huir to flee, to run away
incluir to include
Table 11-10 shows the conjugation for the verb construir.
Stem Changers in the Preterit Tense
Chapter 4 discusses stem-changing verbs in the present tense. If a verb is a stem changer in the present tense it will not stem change in the preterit unless it is an -ir verb. No -ar or -er verbs will stem change in the preterit.
Stem-changing verbs ending in -ir
An -ir verb that stem changes in the present tense will stem change in the p reterit, but only in the third person forms (el, ella, usted, ellos, ellas, and ustedes). Any -ir verb that stem changed o>ue will stem change o>u in the preterit. Table 11-11 demonstrates the preterit patterns for an -ir verb that stem changes o>ue in the present tense.
There are several -ir verbs that stem change e>ie in the present tense. Any -ir verb that stem changes e>ie in the present tense, will stem change e>i in the preterit, but only in the third person forms (el, ella, usted, ellos, ellas, ustedes). Table 11-12, which conjugates the verb mentir (to tell a lie), exemplifies the conjugation chart for all the verbs in the list that follows.
Common verbs conjugated like mentir in the preterit tense:
convertir to convert
divertirse to enjoy oneself
hervir to boil
sentir to feel, to regret
preferir to prefer
If an -ir verb stem changes e>i in the present tense, it will also stem change e>i in the preterit, but only in the third person forms (el, ella, usted, ellos, ellas, ustedes). Table 11-13, which conjugates the verb pedir (to request), demonstrates the patterns of the preterit conjugations of the verbs that follow.
Common verbs conjugated like pedir in the preterit tense:
impedir to impede, to prevent
medir to measure
renir to quarrel, to scold
repetir to repeat
seguir to follow
Irregulars in the Preterit Tense
Some verbs are truly irregular in the present tense because the stem form of the verb morphs into something unrecognizable. Do not think of these verbs as stem changers because they do not follow the patterns that stemc-hanging verbs follow. These verbs also do not use the normal preterit endings, but there is a consistent set of endings for all of these irregular verbs.
Some of the most commonly used verbs in the language are irregular in the preterit. This should motivate you to learn these irregular forms. Table 11-1 5 is a special group of endings that are used for all of the irregular verbs in the following sections. Notice that there are no written accent marks on any of the forms.
Several of the irregular verbs have a u as part of the stem form of the ve r b in the preterit even though these verbs do not have a u in their infinitive form. The irregular stem that is listed next to the verbs in the follow i n g chart is used for eve ry form of the preterit conjugation. All of the following verbs take the endings from Table 11-15 to form the preterit conjugation chart.
andar (to walk) changes to anduv- in all preterit forms
estar (to be) changes to estuv- in all preterit forms
tener (to have) changes to tuv- in all preterit forms
poner (to put) changes to pus- in all preterit forms
poder (to be able) changes to pud- in all preterit forms
saber (to know) changes to sup- in all preterit forms
The verb tener (to have) is extremely common, so memorize the forms of tener in the preterit (see Table 11-16) to help you remember the patterns of all of the u stem verbs in the previous chart .
Certain verbs have an irregular stem with the letter i in it. It is extremely important to remember that these verbs are not considered stem changers in the preterit tense although some of them may have been stem changers in the present tense. Just like the u-stem verbs, i-stem verbs do not follow the rules of a stem changing verb in the preterit and do not use the normal endings a stem changing verb uses. The verbs below have a completely different stem that is used for every form of the preterit. The endings used for these irregular verbs are different than the regular endings used by a real "stem-changing" verb. Because they are irregular, they use the irregular endings from Table 11-15.
Excerpted from CliffsQuickReview Spanish I by Jill Rodriguez Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.