The preterite tense - when to use it

The Spanish preterite tense is used to describe completed actions in the past. For example:

  • Fui al cine ayer (I went to the cinema yesterday).
  • Viajamos en tren (We travelled by train).
  • Mi hermana hizo sus deberes (My sister did her homework).

The preterite tense is used if the past action had a definite beginning and definite end and is often used with phrases that give a specific time frame, eg:

  • ayer (yesterday)
  • anteayer (the day before yesterday)
  • anoche (last night)
  • el año pasado (last year)
  • el mes pasado (last month)
  • la semana pasada (last week)
  • The preterite tense is NOT used to describe people in the past or to describe or set a scene.
  • It is NOT used to describe repeated or continuous actions in the past with no specific beginning or end.